DISCLAIMER: After 143,000 words of text for this fic, you'd think by now I'd own them? If I was paid at a $1 a word Paris and Rory would be mine in no time, but thus, Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, Hofflund-Polone, and Warner Bros. Television are the proud owners of them, not I. If anyone wants to help me out though, my Paypal account address is...just kidding ;)! I write for fun and non-profit, so I expect nothing in return but your reviews and criticism. All songs mentioned in the chapter belong to their respective artists, products by their companies, and any mentions of real streets in Connecticut are thanks to Microsoft Streets & Trips 2004.
INSPIRED BY: They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?, now with 100% less Dean/Jess/Rory love triangles from hell and 97.5% more Paris/Rory heat!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Finally, after two months, I've finished this chapter (breathes sigh of relief)! I never thought I'd finish and I found it tough going for awhile, but after much encouragement driving me towards the goal of the later chapters, this is finally completed.
THANKS: Once again, thanks to my kind girls, Raven and Cinn for their excellent job on betaing me once again. Also, thanks to whatever kind soul of an operator at BellSouth or Verizon told Cinn about a plan where she could get cheap internet access without having to give it up and having to get her fix at the library every now and then. Bless you!
Vix, without you and your many astute observations about subtext, I wouldn't know where I'd be, thanks for the fun IM'ing sessions I look forward to every night when I get home from work. Thanks also to Christina for her support with this fic.
To those of you who sent song suggestions with your reviews, thanks for the response. I was able to write most of this without song becoming a large part of the story, but I'll mention a few in passing. I just wanted to get a good idea, and you all helped me majorly with this since I probably couldn't DJ to save my life.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Longing With a Cherry Tomato on Top
Connecting the Dots, Step by Step
I arrived in the makeshift parking lot of Stars Hollow High School around 5:45am, guiding my Jag effortlessly around the traffic cones and over the curb as I passed the fence surrounding the field and a couple volunteers guiding me towards my space with orange safety sticks. Since Stars Hollow is basically what the board of education would usually call a 'walking and school bus district', there had never been a need for a big parking lot, there was just enough asphalt for the faculty and the few students with their own cars to pull onto. But with the dance marathon, there were some relatives of town citizens coming in along with spectators, so they opened up the athletic field in back for parking.
Where at Chilton I'm thankful that I have a close spot near the door thanks to my position, my poor car that morning was going to be stuck among the Civics, Escorts, Sonatas and Envoys of the world. I was guided slowly to my space by the safety stick people, driving behind a brown pickup I swore had to be used to haul pig waste at one time. I kept myself calm though, listening to the 40s channel on my XM radio and trying to get into a time warp mood where it was 1943 and I was driving in a smooth and classy Studebaker roadster instead.
Of course, this being Stars Hollow, no one cared if I drove into the place in a 1978 Dodge Aspen, so my parking space, instead of on solid asphalt, ended up on the fringe of the baseball diamond's infield. When I stepped out, the heel of my shoe had to dodge the socket hole where second base would usually rest, and I stepped right onto hard, compacted dirt.
I was thinking seriously about complaining about my space to the attendant, but then I remembered who I was here for; Rory, who would probably admonish me if I went back to my sophomore year behavior and whined about 'small-town yokels', and that her town was very comparable to some places in North Dakota long left behind by the young. It really wasn't that bad of a town; I've just been so used to the cosmopolitan urban atmosphere where I've been raised. Summers in the Hamptons, winter breaks down in Florida, and spring vacations spent up in my daddy's brownstone close to Harvard where I built up my relationships with the school's faculty and admissions staff. This was just another interesting stop on the journey that has been my life.
I had on my jacket over my dress so those who were walking towards the building with me couldn't comment, and they were regarding me with little interest. Most of them were in the same 40's garb, with a few teens and adults here and there being anachronistic and in modern dresses and slacks. There was even one boy who thought that James Dean may have perfected his look on December 31st of 1949 and was trying to pass it off as correct for the time period. I wanted to call a few of those people out, but that might have been a little rude, considering I wasn't even related to anyone in this town.
When I walked into the small high school, I could start to feel my anticipation build up for what was to happen. The hallways were small, lockers perfectly lined up, clusters of 35 broken up by the occasional classroom or closet door, followed by 35 more lockers. The look of the building definitely said 'Hollywood small-town high school' all over, down to the ornate ceilings above with the old style frosted glass light fixtures hanging from the rafters.
I saw a sign directing all of us towards check-in and coat check, and had the information Rory had sent me last night about it in a text message on my cell phone. We were couple #131 according to the contest order, so I lined up with everyone else and waited patiently to check in, the foyer in front of the gymnasium packed with people.
I searched around the room, and squinted my eyes out towards the front courtyard of the school looking for Rory through the doors, but I couldn't seem to place her, since she wasn't the only one wearing a red polka-dotted dress. I'd count at least forty others in that building wearing something close to it, and as I moved up in line, hoped she was there. I couldn't shout her name out because the others in line were having casual conversation, probably drowning my voice out.
After about five minutes, I came to the front of the line, and grabbed my fine-point Parker ballpoint pen out of my purse after I took off my jacket and handed it to a man collecting coats. An older woman with curly blonde hair sat at the table, crossing off names on a list and handing out number tags to the contestants. Spectators were being herded into the other doors directed towards the bleachers, while us contestants were coming in from the right and onto the dance floor.
"Last name and number sugar?" the woman asked me, having sort of a beatnik-ish tone of voice.
She looked down on the sheet, marked off like a voter's registers with each page cut at the edge so she could easily thumb to the first letter of each name. The lady thumbed to the G sheet, and then ran her finger through the list until she saw G-E-L. "Is that L-E-R or L-A-R at the end?"
"With an A," I told her, getting a little antsy. So little time to prepare, and hopefully I'd be able to locate Rory's angelic face somewhere within the crowd. I stretched out my neck, looking for her as the lady at the table confirmed my information.
Then she noticed my distracted state, and asked what was up. "Are you looking for your dance partner?"
I nodded towards her as she handed me the clipboard so I could sign next to my name. "Yeah, she said she would meet me here--"
The woman became wide-eyed as realization hit her. "Wait, blonde, brown-eyed, little short, funny name...that's you!"
I was puzzled for a moment, why was she describing me this way? "Uh, yeah, that's me I guess," I told her, mumbling.
"Rory's sitting in the bleachers waiting for you inside, she wanted you to know that 'cause she thought you might get lost here, being from Hartford and all." The lady smiled at me, and I couldn't help but thank Rory for thinking things out in advance.
She handed me my tag and a safety pin, numbered with 131 so I could hang it off the front of my dress. "Good luck dear," she told me, and I walked into the small, cozy gymnasium where I'd be sharing the next few hours of my life with the girl I liked. I thought it was sweet that Rory had gone up to the woman and asked if she could go in early just so I could find her, because in that crowd I may have never been able to. I know if I was at a charity ball and had to search for my date I may have never found them at all.
I walked in and was immediately in awe with the setting; this gym had been untouched by time or renovation, something out of Hoosiers. There were ropes of balloons hanging above the dance floor, in all colors of the rainbow, along with an older scoreboard hanging on a far side of the wall. There was a temporary digital scoreboard towards the end line on the far side of the gym that read '24:00:00', but it didn't distract from the décor of the setting at all.
I'm not going to bitch about a single anachronism here, this town's done their work, I thought to myself as I brought my gaze over to the bleachers to locate Rory.
It didn't take all that long, and the moment I saw her from across the room, she saw me and got up from her seat as she talked to a guy at the refreshments table, sipping from a foam cup. I knew from first sight that was Luke, the diner owner she was talking to, and of course, she was drinking coffee.
There was twenty feet between us on that first look, but I'll just say this; even if that had been the first time I had ever met Rory and laid eyes on her, I would've been just as needy for her as I was in that moment, falling in love on first sight.
My mouth started watering as I took in the dress she was wearing. It was hardly what anyone in this modern age would call sexy, but the way she looked in it just made me want to sweep her off her feet right away. The red fabric was bright, and gave off this warm aura that I wanted to bask in. There was but a little skin exposed on her front, but that would help cool down my hormones a little.
It looked as vintage as the dress I was wearing, but what she was wearing, she could've just come back from a dressmaker's shop in Hartford circa 1943 in a time machine. It fit her slim figure perfectly, like a glove, and I was drawn down to her legs immediately. The skirt fell just a little below her knees, but I could tell that it would flare out and spin whenever we tried something daring.
My heart was beating so fast; it was then I came back to reality. I was going to dance with her, for such a long time. This wasn't just any other dance, where if I got bored I could take a break and recharge at the punch bowl as Brady McHotguy boasted about how wonderful he was and wore out the letter 'I' so much it fainted and begged for mercy from being used so much. I'd only have twenty minute breaks here and there to cool my heels, and then right back into the frying pan and the fire.
What if I fell down that first minute and got us disqualified right off the bat? If we bumped another couple as we danced and started a rivalry we really didn't want, or danced so much we eventually fainted and ended up in the hospital? What if I couldn't keep my hands off her, and in a sudden movement I moved in too close...
I was jolted out of those thoughts as Rory came closer to me, holding another foam cup of something. I looked up at her and shook the negative thoughts of the event out of my head as our eyes met.
God, I was right a year ago when I told her she was comparable to a Disney princess; she looked like birds really dressed her. Her hair had a rose decoration the same color as mine was, a light pink, as if karma was trying to nudge us together. I noticed her fingernails were sort of a cherry red, making my uncolored yet polished nails seem pale in comparison. She was smiling at me, a little bleary just as everyone else was from being up at such an early hour.
"Hi Rory," I told her as she gave me a nice once-over of my dress and I did the same. Her eyes raked over my frame, failing as I hoped to find a thing out of place or bringing down my beauty high, and then she told me that I looked really, really nice. I blushed and I told her that she was certainly no slouch in the beauty department either, there was a lot of nervous conversation going on to start out the morning.
She then handed over the other foam cup she held to me after we got over our nerves. She sipped from her cup, and I had a perverted thought about really wanting to be the lip of that cup. I swear I was giving her that same look Ally did towards Georgia as the other woman sipped the foam head of her cappuccino...
Thankfully before I could get into Charlie-Brown-eyeing-the-little-redheaded-girl mode or lick my lips, Rory decided to let me know what she gave me. "Uh, I didn't know if you'd drink coffee if it didn't have soy milk because Luke had to make enough to serve the entire competition, so he also made up a large pot of wintergreen tea. Is that OK, I can get you something else--"
My mouth thankful for any kind of fluid that didn't have Evian on the label (I think I drank my body weight in the stuff that day and a half before), I sipped the hot concoction, my nose basking in the sweet scent of the drink, and the relaxing vapors of the steam. It felt really good going down, and with the contained caffeine within, I could tell that recharging my synapses throughout the day with Luke's wintergreen tea was something I might have to start repeating every weekday.
After I gulped the tea down, I stopped Rory's ramble, smiling at her. "No, no, this stuff right here?" I pointed at the cup, followed by my stomach. "Hits the spot, that'll wake me up, though I did sleep from about six on until four this morning."
"I'm glad." She seemed relieved, playing a doting girl to my temperamental nature. "We have to go see the nurse for a quick physical, just something very routine to make sure we're both tip-top, she doesn't want to have any surprises befalling her."
"Turn my head and cough, walk a few steps, make sure I'm not carrying a benign form of the plague kind of exam?" I asked, and Rory shook her head.
"Come on, the line's building up," she told me, and took my hand so that we could get in the line. Thankfully the exam was thorough, yet brief and there was no use of a stethoscope, because if she had found my heart racing from the adrenaline rush of the event and being so close to Rory I might have been sitting in the bleachers just watching.
After finishing the exam, we went back over to the refreshments table, where Luke was standing sentry over the food and beverages. I told him that I loved his wintergreen tea (he poured me another cup as we chatted), and we settled those differences that arose in the heat of the Oppenhemier pursuit.
"I didn't really mean to assert that you ran a brothel," I told the guy, who would make a perfect model for a paper towel wrapping. "I just was a little intense that day, and for that I'm sorry Mr. Danes."
"Hey, its fine Paris, I've been called a lot worse by some citizens in this town, but the way you put it to me, and then Jess coming in and trying to push my buttons..."
"Yeah, he's a troublemaker. But from what I heard he's finally cooperating with you, Rory's been keeping me clued in..." Rory came over just then after retrieving her own number and safety pin pair. "...And here she is now."
"Hey, you two patched things up pretty quickly," she said as she handed me the piece of paper and pin.
"All it took was the wintergreen tea." Luke and I said our goodbyes, and my mind was able to focus on the reason she handed me her dance marathon number. "What's up?"
"Pin me please," she said with her innocent smirk. "I tried it myself, but I can't reach that far around my back."
Rory turned around, and somehow I kept my fingers unshaken enough to not jab the point of the pin through her skin as I threaded it through the paper of the number and the material of her dress. "There you go," I told her as I snapped the safety pin to place. Rory then turned around to face me, and asked me if she could pin my number to my dress.
Noticing that I had absolutely no material in back except towards the bottom of my spinal column, her pinning a number would be a little too close to home. I shuddered as my mind created that scenario, and with the only other option being pinning it to my front, I decided it was probably best to forgo the safety pin entirely, along with any help from Rory. Instead, there was thankfully a roll of black electrical tape on the judge's table. So I brought the number below my breasts and went to town, taping the number on somehow without Rory's help. I think I saw her frown a bit at losing possible contact with my bustline, but that was all forgotten as Taylor, overzealous with his use of the megaphone, called all the contestants out to the floor for the five-minute call.
"That's us," she said cheerfully, as she took my right into her left and we got onto the dance floor, ready to scope out the competition. I was in the mode I had been in so many times before with Rory; know thy enemy, and don't play into thy enemy's weakness.
Thy enemy that day for both of us; Kirk Gleason. Usually known as the town's bachelor, nerd, all-around geek, if it's a derogatory term for a nervous man like him, I could say it. But once he got on that dance floor, Rory had told me, that façade disappeared, and he turned into this dancing machine that would make Michael Flatley run away crying towards the woman who had borne him. He had won the competition for eight years straight, and this year was going for number nine. His dance partner was in it for the cup and the glory, and they were usually a professional who was on his team for the same reason some second-stringer from the La Crosse team of the CBA begged for a Lakers contract; to win. Rory told me that every year once the last couple was knocked out of the competition, he'd take the trophy around the gym floor to the strains of the love theme to Rocky.
Rory and I headed towards center court, and my eyes immediately met with Kirk's, a stern gaze that was telling him I wasn't here just for a little fun, I was here to win. I could care less about the whatever the prize package was, and Rory could keep the trophy, but I wanted to leave that floor in approximately twenty-four hours and three minutes declared the champion along with her.
Though of course the number one reason, that I wanted close contact with her for so long was shallow. Wasn't about to let Kirk know that though.
"Hey," he started, trying to get right into his mode of intimidation. "Good luck to you two."
Yeah, nice try there Gleason, I don't play nice. "Whatever," I said, brushing him off. "I have a feeling you'll be seeing Rory and I on this floor into the witching hours."
"Until you break a heel," he told us offside, reminding us both of how Lorelai lost her footing the last three years and stumbled to the ground in agony around the nine o'clock point. Rory didn't take the comment well and grimaced at him. I had to keep her calm, so I decided to move away from him.
"Trust me, we're different. Even if we have to ditch our shoes we'll still be here to stop your streak," she told him as we walked away and towards the judge's stand. I couldn't hear his response to her witty retort, but he was just a distraction.
I set a hand on her shoulder, trying to get her in the zone, so to speak. "Don't listen to him Gilmore, he's just bitter because he's never been able to parlay his titles into any kind of meaningful relationship." I smirked at her, and hoped she'd catch onto my very obvious and screaming hint that I hoped this day would turn into a lot more at the end. Rory laughed, and we settled down, preparing for the beginning of this whole ordeal.
A volunteer handed out yellow cards to all of us, and Taylor let us know the rules for those who needed a refresher course, but that I had down from the moment I accepted Rory's invitation. We had to stay moving and touching throughout, which meant there wasn't going to be any tossing your partner in the air allowed, or any other kind of wild move you'd see in Strictly Ballroom. The breaks would happen whenever Taylor sounded the scoreboard horn, lasting twenty minutes each, allowing us to recover. I could also take one individual ten minute break if I gave up my yellow card, kind of like a strategic last-laps pit stop in an auto race if we could keep it up into the late hours. That meant Rory and I were going to have to keep close eyes on each other's health and let the other know that it was time to yellow card out for a break.
With a minute to go, Rory and I met, exchanging direct eye contact and setting her hands in mine. She trusted me with her fate, in her town, at that moment. The last thing I wanted to do that day was be a major disappointment and stumble. God, I could already see the image of myself tripping on the volleyball pole socket in the gym floor and stumbling on my ass as the horn of doom sounded, Rory helping me up but not looking at me as I left town in shame.
My blood was flowing through my body so fast I could feel it in my veins, and despite not a smidgen of physical activity yet, my sweat glands were stirred up. I had prepared for that however, knowing I didn't have any material on the side to catch any drops, so I had to use a high-powered anti-perspirant. What wasn't helping however was Rory's proximity to me. It wasn't even six o'clock, and just the simple touch of her hands, they were getting me aroused. I felt stiff, nervous, and strange. What if this isn't right, I thought to myself as Rory's crystal pupils raked over my form, getting a sense of my curves and where to set her arms. Her fingers were bare, rubbing up against the ring on my right non-writing hand I received from my paternal Aunt Ingrid for my bat mitzvah.
She drew my attention, taking my focus off my worries for a moment. If she knew what I wanted to do at that moment, which didn't involve dancing with her, at least in the literal and academic sense, but in a bedroom definition, I swore she would've probably freaked. Thankfully my mind didn't telegraph anything, as she gave me a reassuring smile, bringing her left hand up and running a finger in my hair and along the petals of the flower in it.
"You ready for this Paris?" she said in a hushed voice as Taylor finished reading off a list of sponsors for the event. "Last chance to back out, you don't have to do this." Rory's voice wasn't in a mood of protestation, rather in a challenging tone. She then brought her hand down from my scalp, a finger lingering against the halter strap near my neck in a way that almost made me moan. She then brought the hand down my arm and back into my hand, leaving behind a building swath of goosebumps rising up from each millimeter of skin she touched, making the small hairs I had along the top rise. Her words worked alchemy in my ears and her breath tickled my nose, getting me back into the hyperfocus I had maintained since I asked Francisca to help me with an outfit choice Thursday night. A perfectly blended mix of triple-striped AquaFresh toothpaste combined with two cups of coffee was what I sensed in that one slight sniff of her breath as the minty taste of her went into my nose.
I swallowed down a last gulp of my wintergreen tea that I was swirling around my mouth to coat it so I could stay as hydrated as possible before the noon break, handing the cup off to a volunteer to toss. My lovesick side may not have been ready to go, but my empathy was. I wanted to help Rory win this, for her mother, for the town, and in a small way, for myself. Six years removed from my last recital on the stage of the Southington Civic Auditorium, taken out of my element so fast by my mother and pushed into a lonely existence devoid of all the fun I had in my early childhood. The only thing that came out of that so far was a need for Harvard so I could flee her influence, an aborted crush on a former friend and tormenter, and a rivalry that hopefully after this day, would turn into something more, maybe even love.
Rory wanted this. I wanted this. That was all that mattered in the end, no one else did.
I gripped her wrist tightly, looking right into her eyes, a confident smirk settling on my lips as I saw Taylor finish his announcement and prepare to depress the button on the scoreboard's control panel signaling the beginning of this ordeal.
"Oh yeah," I told her, my voice not wavering. "I'm ready, it's time to swing."
She smiled, relieved that I was ready to go. We took our place in the layout of the couples, our 131 number putting us towards the top of the east key lane of the basketball layout, right on the curve of the three-point line. In a way, this whole ordeal was going to be like a miracle shot from three-quarters of the court away, 185 couples, Kirk and his partner between Rory, I, and victory. Hopefully we could sink this shot at the title.
Holding our hands together, we both counted down with the crowd from ten to one that first horn signaling the beginning. It felt like ten minutes, but once Taylor yelled the words "And...GO!", then tapped his finger on that scoreboard horn button, things were under way. Right away one couple left, there just to continue a streak of 'appearances' at the dance marathon. It may have been just 30 seconds, but nonetheless it counted on the record.
We both got right to work, discovering that we were quite in sync with what we had both rehearsed for the last couple of days in our own individual homes. The first hour seemed to flow by in a fast adrenaline rush, Rory's hand imprints hot against my sides as we danced...well, the morning away. A time where I'd usually be in my pajamas cursing the state of 'educational' television as I found instead Trading Spaces reruns or some crap show on channel 30 about a haunted high school that looked awfully small to be one in actuality, was instead spent with my hands against her elbows, spinning around the hardwood gym floor, both of the skirts of our dresses spinning in the air as we danced to the sounds of remastered Benny Goodman Band music, recalling a simpler time where...sadly, Chilton was all-female and very exclusive, you had to be part of a select group of Hartford elite to even be considered for a slot in the school. If Rory and I lived back then, we would never meet, since her mother probably would have had to give her away after birth and been sent to a convent in shame for having an illegitimate child, and Rory would be stuck in the vicious circle of the foster system.
God bless you Gloria Steinham, for I now have a new and sobering appreciation for the women's liberation movement. Back to hopefully many more minutes of dancing with the girl of my dreams...
Rory's POV, 6:05am
When I got up this morning, I had expected Paris to be dressed to the nines, far from her normal demeanor because of the period dress we pretty much had to adhere to. There was a part of me honestly that was scared however, that she wouldn't take it as seriously as I thought she was, and she'd either come in a dress that looked like it came from the forties, but was bought off the shelf at Vera Wang the day before. I was also under the impression that she might get lost trying to find her way towards me, so I had Babbette ask her to come right into the gym and find me in there instead of waiting out in the front foyer near the ticket window hopeful Par would recognize me in the red sea of white polka dots.
Once I got into the gym, I marveled at how beautiful the place was done up, each year the students manage to outdo the class from the year before who decorate the gym. The student council at Stars Hollow High worked deep into the night, leaving at one before everything was period and perfect. From the small touches, like the free throw lane on the basketball floor taped up and filled in so the key would resemble how it was when the school opened in 1941, to the checkerboard tablecloths at the refreshments table, and the nurse in 40's garb, candy-striped apron and all, not to mention the strings of balloons hanging from the rafters, everything was perfect. The digital time clock at the west end of the gym could easily be forgotten since I had on an antique watch passed down through my grandma's side of the family over the years substituting on my left wrist for the old Dean bracelet, now passing through Old Lyme on its way into the Long Island Sound, I'd just check that and with my superb time-telling skills, easily deduce how much time I had left.
I was getting nervous as I went to the judge's table after retrieving a cup of water from Luke in order to balance out my thirst with caffeine. Since I revealed my feelings to Patty yesterday, I was brainstorming what I wanted to do if Paris and I survived the twenty-four hours and managed to beat Kirk. There was no way in hell I was going to skip hand in hand with her parading the trophy around the sidelines of the gym floor to the strains of Gonna Fly Now. If we were to win, the celebration would be on my terms; calm and collected, thankful, and probably worn out. I clutched the jewel case I took out of the pocket of my dress and looked over towards Miss Patty, distracted by a very young blonde boy who was unaware that the older woman was looking at him like a strawberry creamsicle.
"Patty, I need a favor," I told her, and she kind of looked forlorn as I distracted her from the guy and looked towards me, but just for a moment, before she drew her attention towards me and appraised my dress.
"My Rory, you clean up very well. I think you're going to make all the guys jealous today!" She laughed, and thankfully we were both far enough away so that no one could hear what we were saying.
"Yeah, too bad I'm not partnering up with them," I said, before getting honest. "I'm kind of scared though, what if she's not into it?"
"Child, did you not say yesterday that she'd be good, why doubt it now?"
"But Kirk looks like tough competition this year, again." I rolled my eyes as both of us looked towards him, showboating with his redheaded partner as he threw her four feet in the air then caught her with arms right at the top of her back and rear.
"Don't stress yourself, we're not grading on style, but endurance. Between you and I though," she whispered into my ear. "I'd watch out for Taylor, he has a couple dirty tricks up his sleeve to thin out the crowd."
"Such a masochist that guy," I joked, and we both laughed as I handed Patty my CD. "If miraculously Par and I get to 5:57, play track ten for me please, it's a milestone song for both of us. I promise you right now I won't do a victory lap, by then the only thing I'll have in mind is getting to bed."
"Of course, Rory dear." She took the CD and scanned the back cover until she found what track ten was. "I agree, that is a very nice song choice."
"Thanks, wish me luck, this is for my mom, who couldn't be here today to try to topple Kirk, and Paris, who really needs a day of fun." I smiled at her, and she smiled back at me.
"I'll be rooting for you silently," and then she said goodbye and went back towards the judges' stand. I finished my cup of water, and went back to Luke's table to pour myself a hot cup of joe. We had a quick chat, and I warned him about who my partner was. At first he was surprised, but then I assured him that Paris wasn't going to be attitudinal in the way she was that day she came to town in order to milk the Rory Curtain for all it was worth for the Oppenheimer prize.
Because he had to use one of those large Bunn tanks to provide the entire community coffee, he didn't have all the tools to customize it so I couldn't get Paris her usual hazelnut with soy milk. However, I did notice another tank off to the side...
"Luke, what's with the other tank, extra coffee?"
"Actually," he said in his sarcastic but softie-type way, "Not everyone likes coffee as much as you and your mother do, some can't even take the stuff. Thus, I made up some wintergreen tea."
I thought to myself for a moment, wondering if Paris wouldn't mind that as a substitute for coffee since soy milk wasn't available. She had made it clear she loathed non-dairy creamer ("It never dissolves in the cup just right" she told me once), and Luke had those little mini-thimble packs of half-and-half in a bowl that would do a number on her stomach. I had a thought then and there of how her mouth would taste if she would drink wintergreen tea. I became lost in my thoughts for a moment as I basked in a hopeful future thought of her kissing me, the inside of her mouth tasting of a mix of tea and her beloved vanilla Velamints. I actually shut my eyes and went with it until I felt a strong hand shake my shoulder.
Luke had thankfully distracted me from the thought, and I quickly brushed off my inattentiveness due to a lack of sleep. I asked him for a big foam cup of tea, and he complied, handing me the cup, and then I sat down to continue a conversation where he talked about how he missed Lorelai's usual six dollar a day coffee habit. I'm sure he misses the company too, I thought to myself as I sipped the coffee as slow as I could so the effects would be spread through the six hours I'd be separated from it and dancing with Paris instead.
I was looking at my watch impatiently. 5:50am, it read back to me. I started to panic a little, wondering where Paris was. I knew she had to park in back by the baseball diamond and that she'd have a long line to deal with before she checked in with Babbette, but it wasn't supposed to take that long, was it? She said she'd meet me there, 5:45 sharp, with bells on. I even gave her all the information she needed so that she wouldn't run into any problems.
I started internalizing my worst fears into my mind; those which would bring us back to the enemies track. What if she thought I was joking and I didn't actually want to go, or she panicked herself and didn't want to attend? Maybe her mother found out and was sealing Paris in her room Rapunzel-style, her hair not long enough for me to climb...
OK, getting a little weird with the Rapunzel comparison there, but in my mind, anything was a possibility. She could've even accepted then decided to stand me up as revenge for what I did to her by trying to get her and Tristan to go out. Yes, I saw a mental picture of her cackling evilly at her desk, finally getting her just desserts at my expense.
I kept talking to Luke, trying to drown those thoughts out...
And then finally, Paris was twenty feet from me, looking around just as awed at the decorations as I was. She walked in, her head craning up towards the middle of the ceiling towards the frame the balloons were strung up around and the period-specific decorations throughout the gymnasium.
I squinted my eyes a little to get a clearer look at her through the dimmed light of the room, and felt my heart swell with pride, want, and desire. She was definitely in this for the long run.
She started coming closer, and I was able to start making out what she was wearing. It was a beautiful black dress, decorated all over with a pattern of red cherry tomatoes, only hammering home the theme of our first connection to each other; the salads. Never changing, the only thing I can say with certainty was routine in the time we knew each other.
What wasn't routine however, was how much skin she was showing off. As she came closer and closer, I kept my attention off of her, trying to keep my eyes appraised on a Rosie the Riveter poster off to a far corner. My face was looking towards there, but my eyes, fully on Paris.
The dress showed off her best attributes, her long legs, perfect-for-me stomach, and the breasts only she could have and somehow get a full rein on. It was a halter and the only thing my inner vixen was thinking was Man, it's gonna be hard to keep from undoing that back tie for 24 hours, ain't it Gilmore? I was right about her getting revenge on me; It was just a lot more sexual and unknowing than I expected. I swear to God she made me look like I was in the Order of St. Agnes, it's as if she was going to milk all this time so close together for all it was worth. My mouth watered and I was lost to comment.
She had no bra on; her best attribute was out there for me to ogle shamelessly and without any guilt, I almost flushed red, knowing she probably did this on purpose to either rile me up or to give me a bigger case of nerves. She was but ten feet from me, and there I was, my eyes hardly looking at her face at all, but down at her deep cleavage, at least five inches from the top until her dress' neckline flared back up again towards the other halter strap.
Paris then turned around in a twirl, giving me a look at her back, the dress plunging at least to the mid-lower section of it. Since she had a little more weight on her than I did I couldn't make out the curvature of her spine, but that was but a small nag, since the skin was nice and dark. Then my eyes finally drifted up towards her proud and broad shoulderblades, which had probably taken a beating over the years from having so much on them, clothes, backpack straps, emotional baggage. It was sort of a sign to me saying that with all the weight of her halter dress on her neck and nothing on her shoulders, Paris was sending me the message that she was free for the day; 'I'm completely yours'. I started smiling then as my gaze went up to her head and face; There was little makeup covering her usually flawless features because of the length of time she'd be with me, and just a smidge of red lipstick.
Her hair was elegantly done up, free from a ponytail, and every strand curled over, with a rose that matched mine in the left side. God, every date with Dean he threw whatever he had on, and when he helped me come out to society (debutauntally, not in the gay sense of course), even then the rental tuxedo screamed that he'd rather be tuning a car than dancing uncomfortably. But Paris Gellar, she never does things halfway, not even for social events. The only other time I recall her wearing a dress besides when I helped her with the Tristan situation and the Winter Formal was that long black dress she wore for my Hartford 16th birthday party, and even though she was there by force rather by choice, I still thought she looked very nice, unlike the rest of the girls there who were looking good just so they could get a guy they could take to bed that night.
That's what I admire about Paris; she'll always be her own woman, on her own terms, no matter how her mother might try to influence everything about her. I saw the beginnings of what I think is a rebellion that night she crawled in my window and apologized, and though I knew she had to lie to get here (thank goodness for the always handy 'Going-to-Boston' excuse when it comes to Mrs. Gellar), she's trying to be herself finally. Still neurotic, a little grating on my nerves at times and ready at will to provoke me into an argument, but Paris is proving herself to be as far from the girl I first met two years ago as can be.
She then found my attention, and I said her name, almost in shock and making sure this was the same girl I shared a desk with in two classes, indeed it was.
"Uhhh, you look very, very nice, I'm surprised, yeah," I said nervously, letting my mind speak for me. "I mean I didn't expect you in that dress, not at all, I mean you're usually very shy about wearing something like that and I thought..." I mentally slapped myself, trying to regain my words. "Anyways, not the point, you're looking beautiful today."
And you wonder why only Dean found you datable, my conscious rubbed in as she sort of laughed nervously, and I tried to regain my center. I was scared that she was going to call me Mary, but there was never anything to worry about.
"The birds got up early this morning and helped you out, didn't they?" Apparently she still recalled the conversation we had when she convinced me to become her VP, and I blushed as she complimented me. "Very nice dress and period-appropriate attire, makeup and demeanor Gilmore, I compliment you for going as full-tilt with this as you should have." Surprisingly yes, in Gellar's world that would be considered a compliment, so I smiled back at her.
"Thank you." I then gave her another silent once-over, my mind making heads and tails that this girl, no, woman was going to be my dance partner for the next hopefully twenty-fours. We both seemed to be giving each other attention, staring at each other. Then when I put the rim of my coffee cup to my lips to take a quick sip, her gaze moved from my eyes right down to my mouth. I gave her the foam cup of tea in order to see if that would draw her attention off. She clasped the cup in her hands half-heartedly, concentrating her eyes on my lips, maybe giving herself a few ideas. The slow seduction was continuing to work its magic, and it was almost as if I was back in her room Tuesday morning asking her to warm me up. If she only knew how much I wanted to feel her lips against mine instead of that Styrofoam.
Still, I had to keep her attention on the dance ahead, so I drew her attention from me and onto the tea. I let her know that Luke couldn't get soy milk, so that would have to do for a caffeine fix. I thought she wouldn't be enthusiastic about the substitution, but she sipped the tea anyways and found it very much to her liking. So much that we had to stop at Luke's table again after a quick nurse's exam to make sure we were fit enough for the next 24 hours, so she could pour herself another cup of the stuff, which helped her cause with Luke. Paris complimented his brewing skills and apologized for being too intense that late January day earlier in the year we stopped at the diner and she accused him of being a house of ill repute. Luke took it cool and easy-going, leaving me relieved that I could cross out one con on the small list I still maintain and plan to update tomorrow with anything I can find out about her.
Next part of the plan; more innocent touching. I had Paris pin my number on the back of my dress, and enjoyed the small little sparks her fingertips sent up my spine as she worked the dress material into the safety pin and slid it through. I felt her rub against the hook of my bra for a bit, and had to think about one of Dean's lamer makeout sessions in order to keep my legs steady. Geeze, what that girl does to me sometimes...
Unfortunately I didn't get to share the opportunity with her to pin the number to her own person. Due to her choice of dress, she couldn't pin it to her back, and I had a large feeling that she wouldn't let me dare pin the number on the only other place it could be pinned, below her breasts. So I had to imagine that instead as I watched her anti-climatically tape the number to the front of her dress instead, my body very disappointed and having to make do with another longing look down at her cleavage in her distracted state. This was about the time I started recalling all those lessons in basic science that what comes up, must come down eventually when it comes to gravity. I hope Paris tied the back in a very tight knot, because knowing her gravitational pull, I might be seeing more than her cleavage by say, hour number twenty.
"Alright everyone, five minutes to go, please head to your numbered positions on the dance floor, you'll find a taped 'X' with a Dyno label marking your number below your feet. You must stay on that spot unless Patty or I tell you to move for an elimination game or you make it into the final hours..." There was Taylor, blathering on and on about the rules of the marathon, so I took Paris' hand into mine and we took our place on the floor, a few spots down from Kirk. He was already looking at us with disgust, not about the concept of two girls dancing, but because he seemed to remember Paris back from her dancing days. Kirk had seen her when she was nine and had thought since she was a Harfordian, would never set foot in Stars Hollow to try to take his title. Paris had never met Kirk, but she regarded him as she did me the first time I stepped beneath the gargoyles two years ago, an enemy combatant.
Her eyes turned cold, as did his as they stared each other down like they were about to duel in the town square. Kirk's partner also had a stern look on her face, and I stared her down. Small, meek, thin as a rail, the redhead he was dancing with had all the makings of a professional dancer, without the charisma of one. I wanted one of them to stomp one another's feet so Paris and I could take this.
Kirk attacked Paris' heels, which I easily took as an attack on Lorelai the last few years. My eyes darted towards him as Paris defended me and told him we'd be bringing home the trophy this year. Poor little Rocky against Apollo Creed, I thought to myself with a mirthful smirk, thinking that this year would turn out a lot different. We both regarded the nervous man with caution, and she started giving him a steely gaze, screaming 'bring it on' towards him. They moved a little closer and I thought that was about the time I had to get them separated, feelings of loathing for his streak or not. She moved away herself though, and told him we would win barefoot if we had to. I laughed, but in the back of my mind knew that she was dead serious about the threat. If Paris had to, she'd find any one of Kirk's weaknesses and manipulate them into bringing us closer to victory circle.
As we saw the volunteer hand out the emergency yellow cards, she reminded me that Kirk's wins had never led to any kind of relationship for him, not even a groupie. She said this in a way I took as that after we won, we wouldn't drift off out of each other's lives and be able to enjoy the victory...and maybe even a little more than that. I laughed at her as Taylor went into TMI detail about the uses of the yellow cards that would give you a ten minute break if you held it up, describing an example where someone ate a few too many cold cuts and had a sudden urge to throw up on their partner's shoulder. I took my attention away from that, and looked at the girl I was about to hold in my arms for such a long time.
She stared at Taylor as he went on with his words, taking them in carefully and leaving me to gaze at her beauty. Honestly, not in my most romantic dreams did I think she could look that sexy, or sizzling in that dress. I mean to have less than 40 hours to not only practice, but put together a look, find a nice dress and the few embellishments she had on (no earrings or other jewelry to go with her look besides her birthstone Jewish star, a small ring on her right hand, and the pink rose in her hair), for another girl in her shoes, it may have been overwhelming. For Paris though, it was a challenge she relished to meet full on. When she came into that room, whatever she did to shine in my eyes, I could tell that it was all worth it. The idea for her to dance with me may have been nutty and off-center when I came up with it, but moment by moment I was under the impression that in the end it might all be worth it.
Taylor finished his speech and the countdown towards the last minute started, Paris' gaze shifting over from the community and towards me. Her deep browns looked into mine, and I eased my hands into hers, saying in a way that I trusted her. I found her to be sort of uneasy with the prospect, scared that I would be disappointed if we didn't get further in the contest. I saw the same scared little girl that she was around her mother; afraid of disappointment, cursed if the word 'lose' or any of its variations entered anywhere near her vocabulary. Her father never intended for her to be miserable in her own skin, but her mother wanted her to take Vince Lombardi's many axioms about how defeat was the worst thing in the world and never forget them. I hated Sharon for making her stone hard and impenetrable. Paris was going to have fun today, come hell or high water, and I was going to make her forget that this was a dance contest. Hopefully all this time would lead to revelations and surprises from her.
I rubbed reassuringly against her knuckles, getting to know more those same hands and fingers that I dreamed of every night. The slimness of them in my own palms was in stark contrast to Dean's thick, chunky fingers and hands, worn and scratched from all that auto work he did when he wasn't around me. The recollection of his scent, a mix of Skin Bracer and a harsher industrial equivalent of Lava soap used to make me swoon. Now all it did was bring Paris' scent to the forefront.
It was, light, much lighter. Orchids, vanilla and still a little bit of lingering incense-cedar wafting from her fingers, telling me she did at least a little homework with her pencil before she left. Dean was harsh-scented, yet kind to me, while Paris had a light scent, yet was harsh emotionally most of the time around me.
Only, she was starting to show humanity when I was around her, small touches that gave me hints and peeks at what lay beneath those layers Paris used to protect herself. She had put those shields up around her that one day in the shower and kept them strong the three days we were at odds again. But once she thought about it and came over to my house to lay with me in bed and confess, she dropped them and confided in me that she thought she wasn't beautiful. In her eyes, she was homely, dull, and not much to look at. She'd be a workaholic, content with her name in the newspapers and no one to come home to at night except a beagle and maybe a droopy fern once she got out of college. Before I started to push her, she seemed content to be an old maid.
I'm not going to let that happen though. These romantic feelings I have for her are too much to bear, and she had to know that in my eyes, there wasn't a more beautiful girl I knew in the world. So in a challenging yet kind voice, I asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this for me. I'd bow out of the dance and find a new way to get Paris' attention if she didn't want to do this, but I decided to swing her around to my side. I moved my left hand up into her curled hair, running my fingers through it in a reassuring way. It was as smooth in my hands as the tail of a horse, and my fingers raked over the petals of her rose.
I kept prodding her on as I brought it down to her shoulder, running my index finger seductively against one of her dress straps. I could see her eyes wander down as I slipped the tip of the fingernail against the material, scratching beneath. It was meant as a little warm up, and just maybe a little revenge for her behavior on Tuesday afternoon in the car. She coughed out a little breath, and I took it out and ran my hand the rest of the way down her arm. I told her she could back out if she wanted to, and as I clasped my hand into hers and Taylor finished his speech about who was sponsoring the event, I saw her smile at me, putting on her true game face as he had us go to our spots.
Then she told me she was ready to go with this all, even if the length turned out to be twenty-four hours. She had a confidence in her voice I never had heard before, even in our toughest debates with Hillside Academy. She was truly ready for this all, ready to go, and the swagger in her words when she told me that it was time to swing...that confidence created a tingle in my throat and stomach as her fingers twined around mine after we set ourselves up in our own little spot on the floor.
I gulped, and for a moment thought to myself, What have I gotten myself into? There Paris was, the girl of my dreams, looking drop-dead gorgeous in a vintage black dress that made her look so hot, and then mousy me, standing in front of her in something conservative. Her gaze was locked onto mine and raked over my slim footprint. I felt so unsettled, suddenly coming to the realization that I wasn't taking in realism for once, instead I had been thinking of an ideal when I came up with this whole idea.
For God's sakes, I flunked ballet, badly, and never proved myself to dance in much more than tepid middle school dances and that one Formal! Who was my partner? Only a dance champion coming out of a six-year retirement suddenly after I begged and pleaded with her to be my partner!
What was I thinking, in what world did I think that I would be able to go on for so long? That I would be a good dancer and that...
I stopped my self-ramble as Taylor started the countdown, and Paris brought me closer and flush towards her, taking my hands one more time as we looked towards the judge's table. She was confident, assured, and trying to bring me into that same state of mind. Just forget everyone else Gilmore, she seemed to be transmitting to my mind with her eyes. I'll be here to keep you on your feet all day and night.
Remind me next time if I have access to a time machine and can go through with seducing Paris again, that a game of Truth and Dare would be less strenuous than having her participate with me in a dance marathon. Thank you.
Anyways, Taylor sounded the horn, and I started finding my footing, right away surprisingly. All those web pages and books seemed to work from the get-go, and Paris went with what I was doing, letting me lead as she got re-used to dancing with someone besides herself. I kept a tight grip on her hands and we concentrated on getting our bodies moving, rather than getting right into competition with Kirk. The strains of the music started, and I got right into it, casting aside my fears and letting Paris guide me through those first few minutes.
Babette and Morey did their usual minute of dancing they do every year and dropped right out, saying they were exhausted and left the floor, causing Taylor to roll his eyes for not taking the dance seriously enough. I smiled at them and told them goodbye, then got back to the matter at hand. Only five minutes in and Kirk was getting a little cocky with his dance moves, so it was better for Paris and I to stay unaffected and just dance normally for the first few hours.
I'm still a little unsure of how close Paris will actually get to me today, and hopefully we can have some kind of meaningful conversation in the heat of competition. We certainly can't go this long without talking, and I need all the talking opportunities I can find since there's this little nagging fact that only five minutes in, I'm already yearning to be closer to her and feel a little...we'll say distracted. She's looking up at me through the haze of the Benny Goodman music, and I feel like any moment I'd want to drag her off the floor and--
Yeah, Rory, you're here to dance, and slowly seduce. Besides, it's too early in the morning to do something like that...
Paris' POV, 10:15am
Taylor and Miss Patty were easy on us in those first four hours, not doing anything to crazy to push couples out. The 2'x2' box we were in worked well, and I focused more on winning than I did of luring Rory further. Any odd touch would freak her out and cause her concentration to be shot, so I kept my hands on an even keel. No wandering, keeping them either at the sides just below her bra line, or if it was a little wilder, on her lower arms and elbows. She seemed to stay conservative with her movements too, not ready to be brave and set a hand on the bare expanse of skin on my back until a little later.
Admittedly, not everything was going rosy or perfect, at least if you were looking in from the outside. There was the occasional dirty looked doled our way from the odd couple or two, and some of the teens made fun of us, thinking that we were so desperate to get in the competition that we'd join together because we're dateless losers who couldn't get a guy to save our lives. Probably the same group of peers who made Rory beg to get out of the more pronounced cliquish and less bookish natures of the students who attended this school, and into Chilton. Kirk was trying to throw us off early by sweeping his dance partner off her feet and trying to get us to separate so Rory and I would be horned out of the competition. We rolled our eyes at him and did our own little spin move, a little more conservative so we could keep the harder stuff confined to whenever the judges directed us to go further or storing our energy past the sixteenth hour.
I wasn't ready to release Rory anyhow; she was going to be stuck with me no matter what. Eventually around nine I found an opening, and was finally able to place my hands against the small of her back. I had never been that close to her before; and I could feel her settle in against my palms. She made a sudden jerking motion as my fingernails scraped against the fabric of her dress, so I tried to release and move my hands back up.
"Uhhh, sorry, that feels like a nice place to settle your hands," she ranted out nervously. "You don't have to move them Paris."
"Are you sure," I wondered, truthfully. "This is pretty close and I don't know how Dean danced last year so I just want to keep your nerves calmed."
Her gaze moved away from the judge's stand and back towards me as she saw another record being spun. There was a sad, forlorn look in them, and it was then I knew I had hit something within, bringing back up her ex. I slowed down a little, the new song being a slower waltz that threw six fast moving couples for a curve and caused them to separate. Not three seconds later was the horn sounded anew. "That's it for 68, 115, 78, 154, 87 and 24, please clear the floor," Miss Patty projected through the sound system as the disappointed groans of those couples and the crowd filled the gym.
Maybe she was regretting breaking up with Dean was what I thought as she looked towards me, our feet moving in time with the music. Yes, I hated him, but that didn't mean the moment she broke up with him she developed the same loathsome feelings for him. For all I knew they were still good friends having fun together.
"I'm sorry," I told her, hoping that if I said something uncouth I could recover from that. "I didn't mean to bring him up--"
"No, it's OK, I knew it was going to come up," she conceded. "By 11:01 you'll already have outlasted him, but I've already had more fun today than I did last year. He was never really into the whole idea because I took him away from some important body welding time on the car he built me, I think he did this more out of obligation than to try to win."
"I won't talk about him again, I promise," I told her, moving my hands up so we could get more into the song and the dance. "He's been gone from your life four days and that's a very short time to let someone completely go. I know when Tristan left both of us it took me at least a month to recover from the fact that he was gone."
"Yes, but there's a difference. You had feelings for him that went truly unrequited, so to come into school one day and see another student taking his old locker, that confirmed to you things would never be the same. You at least knew him as a friend for the longest time, so you knew what made him tick, and even though he was pulled away from you so roughly, you had background with him, knew what he liked and didn't. With Dean though," she stopped for a moment, sighing as we turned around in the thinning field of dancers. "I never got a chance to really know him as just a friend. One day he was there, helping me with my stuff, and two months later I was kissing him in the market, before that sneaking around here and there so that I could see him since Lorelai wasn't receptive to him. He took me by surprise, being the first guy who was attracted to me, and from there..." she trailed off, trying to get lost in the song, not wanting to dwell on those memories of the past.
We continued dancing through the quiet strains of the Viennese waltz, my mind trying to connect with Rory's to decode what she wanted to say. I wasn't ready to say much either, because she touched on what I had with Tristan before the project debacle. It was true that I was very devastated that he had to leave and I was angry with him for fucking up things so royally, but still, thirteen years of friendly history cancels out about ten weeks of him being a total asshole in my mind. I may have thought in the past that what he did in order to use me as a pawn to get to Rory was awful, but I still like the boy. He will come back from North Carolina one day a changed man, or maybe stay down there and take that second chance he's been given and try to become someone who will be his own man, free from the constraints of the DuGrey legacy and Hartford tradition.
I was being truthful to myself however, about the turning point of my feelings that night. From then on, Rory did become my world, despite appearances to the contrary. Tristan was the only hurdle between a lasting friendship between us, and I had by then resigned myself to the fact Rory and I will be locked in a battle for valedictorian that's going to be decided by thousandths of a grade point, a very small margin. My burgeoning feelings for her have also changed another important facet of my life, and that is I hope that Harvard accepts both of us. Even if I never admit to her, it would be devastating next August to not be able to find her on that campus anywhere, having to settle for her grandparent's true wishes to attend Yale. I told her once that Harvard had a big campus, that even in our competition, we'd never see each other those four years in Cambridge.
Even if I couldn't say what I actually thought of her though, not having Rory at Harvard would leave a large void within me that I would struggle to fill if she didn't go. We had both gone through the rehearsal rigors for the interviews with admissions we'd have next month up in Boston, being very nervous about our responses. I actually wanted to slug the pompous idiot 'expert' at the seminar who had suggested with a snort that Hilary Clinton was overused on college applications when she asked. She might as well have been a single woman seeing as her husband hit on anything within a 1,000 foot radius until he finally got caught with Lewinsky.
I brought my focus back towards the girl I liked, seeming sort of sad in my arms. I hated that I put that look on her face bringing up the 'D' word, so I moved my hands back down towards her hands and smiled.
"Hey," I told her. "Dean was your first, your only for a long time, and the first boy who took an interest in you. I'll give him that; he was smart to try to take you off the market first chance he got." She softly laughed, and I continued on. "But you weren't going to be the love story of a lifetime, that was always apparent, so don't feel ashamed for yourself, taking the first opportunity you could to break it off. I never pegged you for the type to break it off with him that way, but if you felt it was better to cut it off with him completely for now, it was probably for the best."
"But what if he was, the love story of my life I mean?" She paused and bit her lip, and I almost stepped on her shoe in the shock of my attempt to end the questioning of Dean failing. I regained footing, and as the slow strains of the song continued, I had to be quick on my feet to think up an answer.
It seemed like she wanted to challenge me, hear my true feelings on what I thought of their relationship. I had seen them only a few times in action, the worst of course being that heart-straining makeout session he finagled her into as I watched from a second floor window the end of sophomore year. Our friendship went down in flames from another Tristan misunderstanding, and in a scenario that could only come from the pen of a Hollywood screenwriter, he pulled up in the front drive in his Hicksville Edition Ford Ranger to win her love. Of course she couldn't say no to a grand gesture like that, and I watched them below as they kissed, reunited again even though the jerk didn't deserve it.
There was a part of me that wanted to yellow card out of the question, get some space so I could regain my composure and talk my way out of it. But Rory seemed to await my response, like she would if Lorelai was in the same position I was. She probably didn't have much of a chance to talk to her mother about the sudden breakup in detail after she got home Tuesday night; since Lorelai was in Nashville she was leaning on me more for advice. Why not her best friend?
I deflected that off onto her. "Wouldn't you be more comfortable asking Lane this?"
Rory knew what she was doing, the answer already rehearsed. "She likes Dean though, that's the problem, she has to see him every day in school so she's not impartial to my position, and Mrs. Kim thinks he's a fine guy for me. Everyone's still in love with him except for me and my mother, Luke too. The town thinks of him as this cute boy I'm letting go. Though--"
I decided to give her the advice she really needed, not anything reprocessed through the town's gossip circle. "OK, you really want to know what I thought about Dean? Because I can't sprinkle my opinion with NutraSweet and mute it."
"Go ahead," she said as the music reached the bridge, and she pushed me close to her, moving her hands down to below my bra line and pushing me closer so I could hear her without some random townie catching the gossip and staring a circle where it would end with 'purple monkey dishwasher' suffixed to the end of what I said.
Took me a bit to find the words though. Her fingernails scraped against my spinal column as she found her bearings, and I had to move my hands to the same spot to bring her closer together. Really, a large distraction to keep your wits about when you hope that seam you're feeling against the heel of your palms isn't Rory's panty line. I kept my retort relatively intact however.
"Honestly, you've always deserved a lot better, I'd see him and thought he never deserved you. At first he went along with you, reading, being responsible and all those other cute things, but after awhile, you never talked about him all that much anymore at lunch. You'd tell me how the progress on the car was going and that you were still together, but once Jess came into town all you could talk about was how he was misreading your signals towards him and getting jealous. Heck, I'm surprised he was as muted as he was when he found out Jess accidentally crashed your car."
I ran my fingers against her back, trying to soothe out any anger she might have towards me. "I was always uncomfortable around him, especially when we did the project at Miss Patty's, I remember how much you really didn't want him there because of the tension you had with Tristan. The last thing I wanted going into the play was Tristan having a black eye, so I actually brought a canister of pepper spray every day Dean watched the rehearsals. I was not only afraid for Tristan, but in a way, for you." I felt weird being that honest with Rory, telling her the last thing I wanted was for her to get hurt. But also, knowing about the kiss at Madeline's party, I knew that Rory might try to be honest with Dean about what happened eventually. Dean's anger issues would still come into play, no matter that him and Rory weren't together during the kiss and there was good reason for both of them to keep it secret.
My blood still chills at the threat at the 2000 Winter Formal he made towards Tristan for eyeing Rory. Rory and I may not have gotten along then, but I'd never wish a guy who threatened physical violence on her or someone she knew, ever. I already had to deal with someone abusive in my life in my early years, my mother. I don't talk about it to anyone unless I can really trust them, because it was so wrenching. There was some physical abuse, the occasional open-handed slap on the face or hand and spanking behind my father's back (Daddy was always an advocate of timeouts and talking anger and feelings out, he always spared the rod), but most of it was emotional. Ever since Francisca and my father found out when I was ten it had gone down, but since the divorce, the rate of put downs from my mother was increasing again, though still not to the point it was in my early teens.
So in a way, I was scared for her, besides the obvious jealousy I had when she was with him. Which is another reason I'm scared to admit to her, if Dean finds out he's not going to be pleased that I honed into his 'territory'. I only hope if he finds out about this dance marathon arrangement he'll take it as platonic and not misread the signals.
I looked towards Rory, afraid that my opinion of Dean had changed hers of mine. But instead, I saw understanding in her eyes. She saw what I did though mine and understood what my position was. I wasn't going to tell her I thought she deserved someone much smarter than him, but I have a suspicion that his intelligence was a card in play as she broke up with him.
"It's OK Par," she said to me soothingly, "You're right, he never really was the one for me. I think really, I just took up with him because he was there, ready to love me, but I never could return the feelings. Even when I told him I loved him the last day of school, that was spur of the moment, there was just so much going on--"
I decided to cut her off because I got what I wanted, that she knew my point of view on Dean. We could always deal with the insider information at a later time, preferably without 600 other people surrounding us on the gym floor and sitting in the bleachers.
"Thank you, that's fine for now." I said it a little abruptly, but she knows when I try to end a talk, so she understood.
Rory nodded, somewhat relieved that she didn't have to go further with explanations. "You're welcome." We then brought our focus back on the reason we were on that floor, and started dancing anew...
Rory's POV, 7:38pm
Is it possible to think that the old Victorian mold of dating is very outdated these days? Because that's how I've always felt around Dean whenever we have gone out. It was always like a template that was created in 1875; all you had to do was replace 'night at the opera' with 'movie', and 'dinner at a restaurant' with 'McDonald's', update the clothing and change the mode of transportation from a horse and buggy to a car, and you had my nights with Dean. Except for the anniversary dinners (which as the months wore on became few and far between, he completely forgot about our 15-monther in September), he never did anything wild or out of place to try to win my love further than he did with what was expected. Add the fact that he created a scene at every dance we went to, and you wonder why I kept in the template all the time.
Let me tell you, it's only six and a half hours in, and I already feel like I've busted through and torn up the boring template that defined my love life for so long. I don't know how I've done it, but my legs are still solid, and I have a big smile on my face as Paris and I continue to surprise everyone in this little event. I can tell she's having fun too, and we're both enjoying coming together for this, she's putting all of her effort into doing her best for not only her, but also me.
God, not to be sappy here, but the reality of her fingers twined against my back, and my hands resting just a half-foot above the plunge in the back of her dress, it's so much better than the fantasy I had of this all the moment I broke up with Dean and this whole idea sparked itself in my brain. She's surprised me so much with what she learned ten years ago, and she's as graceful as a high-society girl can be. However, you can tell that somewhere inside of her lurks someone who loathes her own richie template, yearning to be free of it. There was this one set where we had to samba for a bit for example. The beat was going strong and I was going with what I had memorized from the webpage I read, going exactly with what the steps entailed and keeping with the white and black steps from the diagram. She seemed to know the steps too, and we kept up the dance in the memorized manner I was used to.
Then, all the sudden, the music swelled, and she released her grip on my right hand, then tightened onto my left. She forced me into this amazing spin move that seemed to deplete my oxygen for a bit, and my heart swelled as I felt myself twirl with her fingertips against mine. It wasn't something dizzying that went beyond a 270° revolution, but as her right hand caught my back, it was then I knew she was going to be my partner for a long time, smiling at me as I caught my breath.
It hasn't been all rosy, however. There are some people in the crowd, just as I suspected that are in shock that I, the town's golden girl, decided to invite another girl to dance with her instead of any of the other guys sitting in the bleachers in that gym, or even Chilton. There was this one boy, Carl Neufeldt, who is a total pig and used to make fun of my lack of a love life back in eighth grade, taunting me daily as I sat at my lonely table with Lane in the cafeteria with my Walkman and book. He always found any opportunity to make fun of me and called me a name I hate even more than Tristan's euphemism for me, 'Spinster'. Him and his friends kept pointing at us and making slurs about my sexual status. Paris was only too happy to use the opportunity to rub my neck and reassure me that they're a bunch of jackasses and that compared to Duncan and Bowman, they were only bush league.
I was barely focusing on the crowd however, to tell you the truth. They were like all the other tables in the dining hall at lunch; jumbled background noise I could care less about. Instead, as Taylor took things easy on us in these first few hours, Paris and I did something I never thought we would.
We talked about things beyond academics. Not that we didn't before, but Paris hadn't used the card I gave her to really talk about her life with no restrictions since I gave it her the Sunday morning we shared my bed. She was comfortable enough around me to bring up Dean, and though she thought she was getting a little too close to home by mentioning him in a bad light, I wanted to hear from her, what she thought of him without the pressure of keeping up appearances.
Hearing her say that she was scared of him last year during the play project, and that she was afraid he would harm Tristan and I...I had something drop in my throat as she said that. She sounded so grave, serious, affected by it, that even in that heated part of our relationship between truces, she was concerned about me. So concerned she wasn't gunshy about facing down a boy that had 100 pounds and a foot on her so that he knew damned well I wasn't a piece of property to be traded around between guys. Her admission was chivalristic in a way, and coming from her, showed that even in our worst times, she can't stand to see me out of her life.
I know how defensive Paris gets too well; it took a lot to push through her walls in order to get her more over these last few months. As I dance with her, I can feel them ease slowly away, and this...I can't help but define Par this way, but she's an older woman in a young girl's body. Her mother has defined her life, no matter how much she tries to pull away, and she's seen so much more than I ever have in my eighteen years, for sure. My mother got me away from the social pressures of Hartford and raised me to be a kind and smart girl. Paris however, she's had to live in the shadow of Hartford, and even worse, her mother. I've thought so many negative things about that woman, and I've never shared them because I was afraid she would be come defensive and try to explain away her mother's behavior with an essay-ish speech.
I'll get Paris alone in a room one day, and let her air out anything about her mother to me. For now though, I feel much more comfortable with talking to her about things that are light and don't cause that much controversy. That means staying away from the topic of Tristan and wondering if she still carries a flame for him. It's funny, the moment he left us a year ago, he seemed to fall out of our lives completely, and we've barely talked about him at all. Louise brings him up occasionally, but both of our gazes involuntarily darken upon impact of the first syllable of his name, and she shirks back in her chair, afraid to say any anymore.
I have to have closure about the topic though. It bugs me that she might still be thinking about him, harboring those old feelings and keeping them close to her sleeve. When I thought about her pros and cons two weeks ago, truth be told, he never entered my mind, but he certainly has here, with a vengeance.
Now though, there's this dark cloud of doubt over my seduction of her. I eased off a little, feeling as if I was getting too close to her heart. Paris can break like a toothpick and if I mentioned him, what would be her reaction? We were dancing together, in each other's arms, and that was something I wasn't ready to lose so quickly. Her fingers twined against my back, and I felt like I fit within her short form perfectly.
As the hours wore on and the contestants thinned out (don't ask Paris or I how we managed to stay in), the music went from stubborn all-40s to filter into 50s rock and a little 80s music inspired by 50s rock. Miss Patty had somehow convinced Taylor that playing his records over and over again would wear the crowd out, so he decided to appease her and open up the playlist a little more. That meant we got to dance along to a few modern hits, which kept us on our toes. Just as we were getting used to that Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy song, Paris and I had to switch gears and move onto grooving to some more calm ballads, like you'd hear in those Love Story-type movies from the 60s.
The hours wore on, and though we had a couple of breaks at noon and 6pm, I could tell that she was starting to buckle under the pressure. Paris was feeling sort of woozy at times, and I had to scream for a volunteer to deliver me a cup of water so I could splash it in her face and shock her back into the competition. We were also losing ahold of trying to avoid the tough questions.
See, after she asked me about Dean and whether we were back together and saw how unhinged I got, I was afraid to bring up the topic of the boy we fought over for the year he was in both our sights. Tristan remained a very little broached topic between both of us, and when I've tried, she tries to bring me right back into something else.
An example of that; During a quiet night in Washington in the dorm room we had a conversation out of boredom (it was that or watching the Orioles game on TV, and we both could care less about baseball). We were doing fine, talking about our childhoods without getting too deep within the angst of our individual situations; Paris with her genius starting to shine through and her parents fighting about her potential, and I with starting school and having the stigma going in of being a product of a teenaged mother. We went around those topics and talked about our happiest moments and funniest stories, just having a fun time all along.
Then I remembered the time she told me about the kiss on a dare Tristan gave her sometime in eighth grade when we chatted somewhat sort-of friendly at the Bangles concert. I thought it might be fun to compare our first kisses, so I told her about mine with Dean and how I thought it was wonderful back then. All the time of course, looking at her own pink lips and wondering how a first kiss with a girl might feel like. She laughed at how I stole a box of Argo accidentally fleeing from the scene and the comedy of errors that resulted from trying to hide it.
She likes hearing about it, I thought to myself. So when I finished telling my story, I eased right in.
"So Par, how did the kiss with Tristan come about?" Neutral, unaffected, at a high point, I thought it would work out well. But remember the conference room fight? It was a little less brutal than that.
She got this white look, and opened her mouth wide, struggling to come up with something to say, or avoid my query. Her lip sort of trembled, and it was then I knew I hit a sore spot.
"Uhhh, I need to run to 7-Eleven, we're awfully low on soda and gum," she mumbled as she abruptly got up from the bed, looking for her jacket.
"But it's ten o'clock at night, you don't know what's out there--" I said, ceding that the talk was done, but still concerned for her welfare.
"I have pepper spray!" she snapped out, and before I could stop her, she was out the door and gone, leaving me there alone. Once again, Tristan put the brakes on getting to each other more, and it took a couple more days of 'I'm sorry's and 'Let's just have some fun's before I got back into Paris' good graces again.
It was now about 7:30 on the dance floor, and I could hear her start to complain, mumbling about what a bad DJ Taylor was and how sore her feet were. My casual shoes seemed to be working fine, but she had miscalculated on her shoe choice, going with slightly high red heels she thought could make it 24 hours, but didn't even get through hour fourteen.
I tried to start soothing her, massaging her back with my hands as we danced, dancing closer to her, talking her through the history of the marathon and other things. I even started an impromptu mind-meeting session, going over from memory the notes in my head for one of our classes, because we both had premonitions that Mr. Mercurio was planning to spring a three-page popper on us first thing Monday morning to keep those of us slogging through War and Peace on our toes. Nothing seemed to work however, and her muscles tightened in my grasp.
"Rory," she groaned, fingers tight on my wrist. "Are you feeling tired yet?" This despite at least three cups of heavily caffeinated wintergreen tea going through her system at the time.
"No, not at all," I said with a smile. "Why, are you ready to give up and let Kirk win?" My streak of mischief was intended to bring Paris around, and once again, wake her up.
"Of course not, I'm just not used to being in a situation like this on a Saturday. Usually, I'm snoozing my way through temple because my rabbi is so dull." She laughed wryly, and I couldn't help but do the same.
"Father Daniels can be that way too, only it's on a Sunday," I commented back. "But at least it's good cardiovascular activity."
As I said that, her hands moved down to where my love handles would be if I wasn't already slim, and suddenly her mood seemed to brighten considerably. She got this dreamy little smile on her face, and Paris went into this sudden mode I never saw her in before.
"There are other wonderful ways to work out the heart," she reminded me, her voice cooing...I never thought she could coo, she was Miss Monotone all the time. "Some of them very sacrilegious in execution."
It was then the music changed over to the beat of a tango, just the kind of opening I had been looking for. However, Kirk and his partner had beat everyone to center court and started their exhibition, and Paris' sudden words stunned me too much to help draw us both into that same showcase position. Which was all good and well, since we moved to a far corner while everyone hooted and hollered at the 'sure thing' couple of the tournament. Better to be the dark horses and just win on good old-fashioned endurance than trying to overimpress.
"I didn't think you had it in you Gellar, go you with the Bible references!" I laughed and brought her closer.
"I have a million of 'em." She seemed to be getting more comfortable, and though she was still a little grumpy, she wasn't ready to take off my head.
Though a few moments later, I'd be regretting bringing that up.
"Figures, being around Tristan and all," I said offhand, thinking that the conversation would remain relaxed. However, once I said his name, she seemed shocked again and things were starting to resemble the same thing that happened when I tried to bring him up in Washington, she was horrified.
"Damn it, Tristan isn't that bad," she said to me firmly. "I don't care if you hate him, he was in my life for twelve years and we depended on each other, he was more than the frat boy he was around you!"
"I didn't say anything mean about him, I'm sorry--" I started panicking as I felt her grip on my waist fade.
"Save it, please, I don't want to talk about him." She gritted her teeth, and it was then I knew I hit a trouble spot, just like her mother.
"But you asked me about Dean earlier and I thought that it would be fine to talk about Tristan, we've barely talked about him since he left!" The music was blaring over the system, covering up our argument, or lack of it after she brought her dancing down to a slow shimmy, only a couple fingers in my hand.
She's not going to run away, please God, no! I wasn't even thinking of the dance; I hated when Paris averted something I brought up.
"I want my yellow card!" She told me firmly, without hesitation. "Get it out of your pocket Gilmore, I need some air!"
"But you'll need that for later, for an emergency..." I tried reasoning with her, but she was firm.
"I need some space, ten minutes away might calm me down." I looked into her eyes, and she pleaded with me for the card. She seemed to be angry, but yet, sad. Her doey eyes were forlorn, and I could tell through them that she still cared for Tristan, even a year after.
After a little hesitiation, I handed her the card, and we danced towards the judge's stand to hand it to Taylor. I could get my own ten minute sit from it, and maybe she was right, we needed some space.
"Ten minutes Taylor, I have to use the restroom and massage my feet," she yelled at him, and he nodded as he took the piece of paper and called me over to the sidelines. We walked towards the bleachers, and I held her hand tight, wondering if this was the last time Paris and I would be so close together. I sat down, and let her go, but before I did, I looked into her eyes, giving her a face that told her that whenever she was ready to let go, I would be there for her, open to any conversation.
She looked down, and I pleaded with her to use the ten minutes wisely. "Paris," I said, numb. "You'll be back, right?" Something right out of a novel.
Paris stared at me, and I thought I saw the beginning of a tear form. I might have been seeing things though, because I was focusing on her words more. "I can't promise anything Rory. If I'm not," her voice was strained and cracked, "I'm sorry."
And then, she left me, sitting alone on these bleachers. I watched her walk away from me and towards the front doors of the gym, unreadable through the swell of the dancing crowd, still about 100 couples strong. The door opened, and as she walked out, fate was the only thing guiding both of us again.
I brought my gaze to my hands, only minutes before held by the blonde girl. I can remember from memory her slim fingers wrapped around mine, and I feel a sense of disappointment swell over me.
I've failed her, and myself. She still has a large space in her heart for Tristan, and there's nothing I can ever do to overcome that. I've started to feel like I've misread every signal over the last month, and that I'll be stuck never letting these feelings out. I don't hate Tristan, but he's not my kind of lover. Too aggressive and cocky, and with an attitude that makes me sour. Paris can be acidic, but when she's nice...
Damn it, she can be really nice. As I sit here watching the minutes tick away, I can only hope I see her walk back through those doors at the end of the gym at 7:47pm and 23 seconds so she knows I didn't mean a thing bringing Tristan up except wanting some meaningful conversation...
Paris' POV, 7:52pm
My mother has from the age of three always to not show your hand, any sign of weakness when you run into a spot of trouble, no matter how things may turn out in the end. Sometimes the advice has turned out to be sterling, no skin off my hide and I didn't fold under the pressure, a few of my younger meetings with Francine Jarvis in the schoolyard of Chilton Country Day showed that I was the strong one coming out of it all.
Running out of that gymnasium a few minutes ago, however, that was a huge fucking bluff. I didn't have a good hand to make a big deal out of Rory bringing up the boy who's caused so much bad blood between us, Tristan. There was no reason at all to pull out my yellow card and take ten minutes away from her, or worse...forfeiting. Just thinking that in my mind, it's a curse word, it has the same venom to my brain as a few other choice words in the English vocabulary.
Paris Gellar was forfeiting her chance to romance and woo Rory Gilmore. She was forfeiting that gaggle of tingles from Rory's fingertips that was running through her system like Millstone Nuclear in the heart of the dog days of summer because she's a chicken.
She also ran all the way out of the gym and into the nearest empty restroom to start sniffling before anyone could see her at her weakest point in the seduction.
That's right, I cried. It wasn't that much, just a few shed tears, but as I shut that door, I let myself cry because I knew from the moment Rory handed me that yellow card, I was wrong, heartbreakingly wrong about her intentions. If it was clear my sense of humor had been darkened and frayed by years under the influence of Sharon Gellar, there's Exhibit A for you right there; me taking Rory's joke the worst way I could.
I could never admit defeat though; as my mother says, 'Gellars never admit defeat'.
Yeah, this coming from a bottle blonde and former secretary named Sharon Martinez-DeBartolo from a working class clan in Uniondale, New York, and who moved to Hartford in her teens thanks to her mother striking it lucky with one of the males of Hartford society. She became a Gellar only through marriage with my father, and the only thing she does is file her nails all day while sending money to her retired parents in Florida. Alimony's been a pain in my father's ass, and it takes almost Colombian-quality smuggling techniques to even get a gift from him through the Manor, Mother, and into my bedroom. Take the money and run, but wreck the daughter's hard-earned stuff, that's been my mom's attitude since the divorce went through.
Funny I never heard the defeat line from my father. Probably because he fought tooth and nail for any shred of reputation he could wring out of Mother before he had to give up.
But she's right; I wasn't going to admit defeat about getting that far in the dance marathon. When it came to the goal of gaining Rory's love through it though...I felt ready to cry uncle and give up.
I looked at myself in front of the sink in the mirror, wondering how I could've gone from carefree to bitch faster than my Porsche on a straight Iowa farmroad. She was just joking about Tristan and his habit of calling her Mary. Why did I take it so personally? What triggered within me to lash out at her like that and tell Rory to shut up and not bring him up again.
Truth be told, I miss him terribly, every day. He made my life interesting, a presence in it just about every day since I was three and we met in preschool. I grew to love him since he was the main dependable boy in my life. I couldn't help it that by the time I turned 13 and discovered the opposite sex, he became an obsession on par with that of my academics.
Yes, everyday I don't see him at locker 1832, since he left last November, my heart has been hollow in a certain place. But I can tell you with certainty that place is where only friendly feelings lurk, the place where that one special other in your life, that first, lived for a long time. Then one day, it's yanked out without warning because two inept jackasses convince that first special other it would be fun to commit burglary.
But you know what? Rory's taken the place entirely where his love used to be. Absence, instead of making my heart grow fonder of DuGrey, drew me closer to my former enemy, and vice-president, and I feel a connection with her I never have with Tristan. Her kindness, loyalty, trust and her spirit, Rory could have given up on me the second I told her to get away from me after she broke the ice...literally with her flying body into my castle project. But she stayed persistent, and even through force and many, many threats to bring her down, she still finds something to like about me. Something that was enough to get me in this farmtown gym and participate in a glorified hoedown with her.
Yet I still fumble the opportunity. Here, you wonder why my psychiatrist billed double when I was in therapy after the parental shit went down, Melfi and Soprano don't have anything on Dr. Judy Birnbaum and me!
I stood there, looking at what I had become in that mirror. I was supposed to be making her numb with desire, help her forget her worries, and instead I was in front of a mirror, watching myself cry and ruin my makeup somewhat in that hot little number that was turning many heads, including a certain brunette's.
"Why do you always screw things up?" I whispered to my mirror image. I said some things, admonishing myself for my behavior and giving MirrorParis a dressing down on par with some drill sergeants. "Who the hell are you, you have a girl ready to break down in that gym from your cop out, and all you can think to do is throw yourself a pity party? Come on, this isn't what the usual Paris would do, she would be on that floor heating things up, and kissing the everlasting life out of her!"
My conscience decided it was perfect time to chime in. OK Par, you're just going to walk out on Rory without any explanation about how Tristan still sort of effects you, but only as a friend? Come on, you can't get out of here, you might as well wear a hood on Monday and run chickenshit away from her each time she asks for an explanation. You love her, you think nothing of her! If it wasn't for your more reserved side, you would've screamed 'YES!' after she asked you on Wednesday from the top of Travelers Tower! For the smartest fucking girl in all of Central Connecticut you sure don't have a clue when it comes to earning love...
"But I do," I cried to myself, "I do like her, maybe even love her. I like Rory Gilmore goddamn it!" I felt at my weakest, crying into that mirror with an audience of just myself, knowing that the security of that restroom might have kept that secret. "But I don't know if can deal with it. This town, my social class, Chilton, Harvard, most of all my family what would they say? What would Rory say if I even insinuated I might have more than friendly feelings for her?"
"Dear, you won't know until you get the courage to rise up and go through with telling her that."
"I know, but..." Wait, that didn't sound like my dialogue, spoken or thought in my brain. That wasn't even my tone of voice. My eyes were transfixed to the mirror image, and it took a two-inch movement of my pupils to the left before I knew that there was another member of the audience. An older Latina woman of about 55 stood behind me in my gaze...
"Ms. LaCosta?" I stayed focused in the mirror, every part of my body paralyzed in fear. The woman who had saved my academic hide last year in renting out the hall to me for the project, and who was currently judging this competition, had come in unnoticed as I ranted on to myself about my state with Rory.
She knew everything; Miss Patty knew my secret, and the shame that was following me around just by keeping it to myself. Oh God, no! I thought in a panic, there was no way I could just shrug it all off as a joke or some kind of idiotic Method acting exercise. I was out in her eyes, confessing my want for Rory to a bathroom mirror, and unwittingly, her.
"Hello Paris," she started, seemingly unaffected. "I just came in here to ask what the matter was; you ran out of the gym awfully quickly."
I wanted to tell her that Rory said something wrong and I reacted the wrong way, but my acidic self put up my usual walls. "What do you care, I don't even live here, you have no reason to be concerned about me. I'm fine."
I saw her come closer towards me in the mirror, her flowery robe and bright dress apparent in the light, along with her face, worn by many a South Florida season. "You left Rory in the gym awfully worried and it seemed so abrupt, so it seemed natural for me to come in and try to soothe you."
"Well you can't," I said bitterly. "I suppose I should leave before you hop on your cell phone and spread the fact I have feelings for your golden daughter that go beyond those of a Midol ad scenario throughout the entire ZIP code. If you want a photo for the trashy story you'll have printed about me in the Gazette I'll go into my glove box and retrieve one." A little bitter, don't you think?
Where if this was Hartford she may have gone through with not only that spoken threat, but created an entire past untrue sexual history, instead Ms. LaCosta came even closer. She was still smiling, and it was unsettling. My mouth dropped as I realized her proximity to me. Instead of slapping me like the insolent young woman I was acting like though, she put her hands on my shoulders.
"Turn around dear," she asked.
"No, I don't have to Ms. LaCosta," I stated firmly. Maybe she'd go away if I didn't face her eye to eye.
However, she stayed stubborn. "You have that right in this nation, along with the right to pursue your form of happiness. When I landed at Ismoralda in '65 on a raft from Cardenas that was the one thing I came to America for; to be happy. If you feel happy with Rory, no one can tell you otherwise, and I'm certainly not going to because it is your life Paris."
I sighed, she wasn't going to be mean to me and fight my fire with fire, I had to concede she'd shoot down my brimstone with rainbows. "But I'm not supposed to be this way, and I'm sure that if I was back in the actual 40's, you sure wouldn't be as open to this as you are now. You've heard too much, and I'm honestly unsure if I can trust you with what was uttered to this mirror."
"You're right," she accepted, "you don't know if I'll go out there, get on the microphone and shout out that scenario of dread planted within your mind right now." She then turned me around, finally. "You also don't know though that I see through your bitter front, and inside, I see someone inside who resembles a raven-haired young mother who came here in October of 1985 with a one year-old in tow, looking to flee from her confining life and creating a new and free life for that toddler and her. That same girl kept her child a secret from everyone in this town except I and the owner of the Inn for at least three months, because she came to me looking for some kind of job, any job that would keep her and a child from having to move to a tenement garden in Hartford in shame."
I then brought my gaze up towards Ms. LaCosta, never realizing until then that despite the seemingly unconnected threads of Lorelai's first year in Stars Hollow and my current state, we had many parallels. "This girl was smart as a whip, could have easily gotten into any college she wanted to, and hid her secret life from her parents as long as she could. When everything went down, she gave it all up, the money, the guarantees, the high life, to become a maid in a small-town inn. She was ashamed of it at first, scared to show everyone that she was doing this as more than a Christmas-saving job, but as a lifeline for her and her child. But then, eventually she knew she had to come out and state that she was a teenager with a daughter. That day was Christmas 1985, and though she went into that town holiday party thinking she'd be run out with a pitchfork for bringing her child around and taking the few gifts that Mia and I gave her, you know who told her she was a bad role model?"
"Who?" I responded, albeit knowing the ending already.
"If they did we either didn't hear them or never were there to condemn her." She smiled into the mirror and ran her fingers through my scalp. "Hon, this town has seen so much over the years, marriages, deaths and scandals, the occasional crime that draws the news crews out to tell us small towns are going down the tubes. But I can tell you right now, that if Rory is more than a friend to you, you shouldn't stop yourself from telling her that just because other external factors stop you."
"How much did you hear by the way?" I finally wondered.
"Just enough," she told me. "But enough to tell me that you want her in your life, even if she might reject you. You came here just for her dear, didn't you?"
I nodded. "I was surprised when she asked me to be here since I haven't really danced in six years, and the fact that well...I'm wearing a dress, same as her." I finally started calming down, became less uptight and was able to laugh at myself.
"Yet look at you." She had me turn back around in the mirror and look at myself. "You look wonderful, you've managed to stay on your feet for at least 13½ hours and until just a few minutes ago, you were giddy with excitement, what happened?"
"Tristan did," I said bitterly. "You know, that boy who came in and out of the play last year? She mentioned him in jest and I went ballistic, throwing my yellow card at Taylor and fleeing."
"The fine specimen of male?" Ms. LaCosta got this look of astonishment on her face; sort of a eureka moment. "If I was forty years younger, he would be on my shopping list!"
There went my red face again; the lady sure knows how to call the guys. "For a long time I felt that way too, that he was the only one meant for me. Then he got into trouble just before the play, ended up in military school in North Carolina, and then..." I wandered off as she finished off my sentence.
"Thoughts of yours wandered towards thinking of 'my golden daughter', as you stated, as more of a friend."
"Took me a while, but by the time we got back to Connecticut in August, I was stuck thinking of her romantically." How I could be so candid and trusting with Ms. LaCosta I don't know, but I could feel this aura around her that she had seen it all, heard it all, maybe done it all. Hey, she lived on South Beach for God's sake, wouldn't put it past the woman. "I'm just very, very scared, treading lightly, afraid that someone's going to find out and that's it, Rory's not going to want to be around me anymore." My lashes lowered as I looked down at the sink. "Honestly, every time I've tried to push her away, eventually I beg her back into my life. Every instance for some inexplicable reason, she puts up with me and draws herself back into the mess that I am, she must have a sadomasochistic streak in her to have handled me for this long."
"You have a true friend then," she said to me, noticing my halter tie loosening and retightening the knot. "She's stuck with you even when other girls may have shunned you. Something's nagging her to stay with you; maybe you have a connection to each other that's even tighter than that of twin siblings. Whatever it is though, even if she doesn't think of you in the way you think about her, I can see Rory continue to support you and be a good friend. She's bad at making enemies, and has some awkward problems making good friends. It's clear that you, my dear, are a very abnormal exception to that rule. For whatever you do, no matter how much you grate at her last nerve, you pull towards her, and she in turn does the same towards you."
"So I'm not abnormal?" I asked.
"No, but you need to unwind that spring a little, get a little more daring on the floor, let her know that you mean business. I have to admit that I've tired of her drama with Dean and Jess, they were part of a template that seems copied from bad drama. You on the other hand..." She finished my knot, and with my frown slowly inching towards an upwards curve, "...will be a challenge to watch, stealing those glances, trying to wring something out of the innocent. I'm not about to tell anyone because I want this little secret of yours to age to a fine vintage, and I just have this small little feeling in the back of my mind that maybe she's bored with the opposite sex. And if things come to fruition, you'll be surprised at how well this town might take things. Because if they don't, I'm not going to stay silent and leave you to fight alone."
"Honest?" I was still a little unsure, until she turned me around and offered me her hand to shake.
"An oral contract, that I, Miss Patty, will be there for you if you're ever in doubt, or you just need a second ear offered for an opinion."
I felt like by doing this, I might be entering into some wacky tradition that I might be called on to return a favor for someday. Then though, it was just something woman-to-woman, a covenant that I could continue with my secret for as long as I needed to without any pressure. For all anyone knew, I did really have sore feet and needed to use the bathroom.
Alright, so after all that wintergreen tea the second part was needed, but my feet were fine, though I was cursing my choice of heels. Halfway through, they did hurt like heck, you can see now why I'm a loafers girl outside of school.
So I asked her for one favor before I decided that yes, I was ready to explain my sudden mood swing to Rory and get back to creaming Kirk's ass.
"It's Miss Patty, we've had a close conversation and I've never been comfortable with the formal titles."
"Fine, Miss Patty," I corrected myself. "You won't tell Rory we talked, right? If she were to find out that I was talking about her this way...I don't think I could face her." I offered out my hand, and she proffered it.
"You have a deal hon. I wouldn't even think of sharing this because it's something that's very iffy to spread." We smiled at our understanding with each other, and though I swore I saw in her eyes she knew something that I didn't, I wasn't going to call her on it.
I thanked her, and after checking my watch and realizing that it read 7:46:23, I had to get back into the gym, and fast with only one minute exactly left.
"I have to go," I told her. "My girl...she's waiting for me out on the floor." I smiled funny, and nervously looked at Miss Patty. She just had her own funny smile on her face. "What?" I asked, wondering the reason as I walked backwards.
"You might want to pay attention Par. You're about to crash into--"
Just then, I felt my ass and head bump up against the doorpost, giving me a jolt and a nice bruise on top of my skull. I cried in pain for a bit, and she completed her sentence.
"--The door." She gritted her teeth as the minute started ticking down. "Better just start running," she then observed.
Of course, that led my gaze to my shoes, and the dress I was wearing, braless. "In this getup?"
Patty laughed at me and then jolted me back to the situation I was facing. "Unless you want to stay here, forfeit and see Kirk take home the trophy." My eyes immediately widened, that was definitely something I didn't want Rory subject to, again!
"I'm gone, bye!" I opened up the door, and thankful all that unneeded weight was off my shoulders again, booked it all the way in those painful shoes 450 feet from the east wing girl's room and back into the gymnasium, where that damned stubborn Taylor was standing at the table with his stopwatch at hand, salivating at getting to use his 'Airhorn of Elmination' on me.
Well not so fast there, buster. Rory was sitting on the table, anxious for my return and looking forlornly out at the crowd. I was thirteen seconds away from ruining her night. If that didn't swell my heart to double its usual spiritual size, the sexy little pout on her face pretty much sealed the deal that I had to make it back over.
I dodged couples in mid-swing or move, 'Pardon me' and 'excuse me sir, madam'ing my way through the dance floor. Still so close, yet so far away, I could hear a clock ticking in my head. 9, 8, 7, 6...
I had to resort to drastic measures to get back into the competition. I yelled out her name over the blare of the music, and in the snap of a finger, she was up like a light, turning her frown upside down and all that other romantic jazz. Making a long ten-second story short, we met back at our spot with one second to spare, and I placed my hand right on her back, dipped her low to the ground, then grabbed her hand and spun her right back against me, causing a very dramatic re-entry into this whole thing. She looked into my eyes, with a smile, and sighed happily.
"I'm back, I'm sorry, and I'm ready to talk," I told her, as we heard Taylor voice out his frustration over the PA system.
"Damn it, you got in under the wire Miss Gellar!" he yelled at me as Rory and I found our footing. "I was getting so excited and you had to go ruin my fun, why did I--"
Andrew, the owner of the local bookstore tapped him on his shoulder. "Taylor, you're supposed to be impartial and encouraging! Don't say anything else or else I'm taking over the mic and horns."
Rory and I laughed as we saw him put Taylor in his place, and after that, the world around us turned foggy as she spoke for the first time since I left her.
"Hey, you'd get here eventually," she told me. "But I understand where you were coming from there Par, I'm sorry if I brought up too much, too fast." She rubbed her free hand on my shoulder, and I quickly felt any tension left within fading.
"It's OK, we were keeping this in way too long. Tristan doesn't deserve to be ignored even though he screwed up, and though he was your personal pain in the ass and my swoon buddy, he made everything interesting." I sighed as she started listening. "Look, I didn't mean to go off on you, but since we're getting so close to each other, I suppose there are some things I should let you know about, clear the air about a few things."
"Well...alright," she uttered, somewhat nervously. There was something about her tone of voice that was cluing me in that Rory was expecting the worst out of what I had to say. That meant I had to use caring words and emphasis on what I was about to confess. We danced in each other's arms as she started to lean against me and lend her ear to me.
"First of all, if you think I'm still mooning over Tristan as that prince who will someday come on noble steed and bring me back to his newly acquired kingdom of Raleigh-Durham in a year or so, I'm not, Ror. I stopped thinking of him as more than a friend at least more than a year ago and God forbid if he ever came back I don't have plans to rekindle anything that isn't there. There's no point continuing to delude myself further since the date you sent us out on sophomore year made it painfully clear that we were incompatible romantically."
Rory smiled as she heard me say that, and dare I say looked more relieved than surprised. But that was nothing compared to the heated curve I was about to throw towards her. You don't have to, my conscience told me, but I knew that if I wanted to spark this relationship, I had to be completely honest with her. My hand against her back for support, I confessed to Rory that certain detail which happened two weeks before the date.
"By the way, do you remember that party you went to at Madeline's house the night after you broke up with Dean the first time? Where you did more recreational reading than dancing and your friend Lane met Henry?"
"Yeah," she told me, "that was a fun party..." Rory seemed to bite her lip, cluing me into her second sense about what I was about to say.
"No Gilmore, it wasn't fun, for you or I. I would've rather been elsewhere honing my vocabulary instead of monitoring Orangina, and the only reason you were there was to think about something else besides Dean, all that loud music would hopefully scramble your senses. Tristan wasn't having a hot time either, what with Summer playing with his heart like a toy. Both of you were having problems of the heart, and you somehow came together in the piano room, where after a rash of thefts of precious antiques from previous parties and some broken glass bells from Mrs. Lynn's tourism bell collection, Madeline and her mother decided to install a wireless security camera, which was hidden in a replica tin sitting on the bookshelf."
She didn't stop dancing, didn't stop me from going on. Rory just nodded and licked around her lips to recoat them in a nervous manner. "Okay..."
"As I was saying, you two were hurting, at a party neither of you wanted to be at in retrospect. You wanted to be at home with a pint of Häagen-Dazs watching Thelma and Louise while you recounted to Lorelai how much you wanted to cut off circulation to Dean's pelvis, while Tristan...well we both know where Tristan wanted to be. So you find yourselves in the same room together, both of you hurt, and numb. On the surface having what looked to be a healthy serving of sexual tension on par with several series on a certain young woman-targeting television network which shall remain nameless, you still loathed him, he still had an insatiable crush on you. However, you dropped your barriers enough to have an awkward conversation about science class or another class, I don't remember. All I know is that Madeline came up to me one day asking if I might want to see something on a videotape that had a perfect view of that piano and the surrounding room. She didn't say what was on it, just that it would give me ammunition."
I could see her lip get sort of shaky, and her body tighten in my grasp. So far I had done well setting things up, now I just had to go through with the rest of the story and hope Rory still respected me. "Go on," she beckoned with a very shaky and strained voice.
I told her all about what was on the tape, and about how I reacted to what was on it. At first she had this look of fear to her and it seemed like in my arms, she was turning white. Rory was scared, and I tried to make her understand that there was nothing on that tape that was a surprise to me. I knew Tristan liked her, she didn't, and in the end once I got to the climax of the film, the kiss, that I didn't feel a thing. I was emotionally numbed and shocked from what I saw, but there was no anger that I ever felt. I kept trying to make it clear to her that the only two people who were at fault that night, were not in that room. Dean and Summer were both idiots for letting good love pass them by, and she seemed to understand I didn't hold any bitterness for her or Tristan at all.
As I finished describing what I had seen on the tape, I felt Rory relax in my grasp, and saw her color return to her face. I was thankful that she was taking such a revelation so well, and I had poured my heart out to her in such a way that made me feel like I could trust her with a confidant with my own secrets. I tried my best to make sure that this revelation was the final straw that told her she could trust me with anything she held close to her heart, including secrets, and I would not tell them to anyone.
Finishing what I had to say, Rory asked the important question I had been expecting about the cassette. "Uh, where is this tape you watched now?"
"Oh, it's currently probably eating the ozone layer above New York City since I burned it in my home incinerator in front of Madeline and Louise while I scolded them that if details about your kiss with Tristan ever got out, they'd be getting some natural blue eyeshadow courtesy of my fist." I laughed and she finally let out an easy breath. "There isn't a copy floating out there at all, only the five of us know what happened in that piano room--"
"Along with my mother," she added. "I kind of panicked about whether he'd spill about the kiss during the play scenario so I asked her if I should let Dean know. She told me to keep my mouth shut."
"As well Lorelai should, I didn't need my Romeo carted out to Hartford General with double broken kneecaps. But honestly, I kinda had fun seeing you squirm as he hinted about the kiss. He didn't tell me about it, but I knew what he was talking about the entire time. I did make him Romeo in a last gasp at saving him from falling deeper with Duncan and Bowman, but it didn't work, so I'm sorry for that too."
"What about the date though? You said you handled our kiss just fine, but the setup went too far." She was nervous on that topic, and had totally called me on that. So I answered her in the most honest way possible.
"That did bruise my pride, but back then I thought you'd be gone by the end of the year and I'd never have to see you again. I'm really sorry for telling you that I hated you for setting me up on the date, because although I seemed happy coming back into the classroom the morning after..." I hesitated for a beat, reading her eyes as we swayed across the floor. Her blues were warm, caring, understanding completely. "He wanted you Rory, not me. It was a noble attempt to try to make my dream of dating him come true, but there were no sparks during dinner, and the movie was spent going over some class notes in my head rather than gauging the exact moment he'd stretch his arm across my back and place his hand on my shoulder. The kiss at the end of the night was just as dull, I didn't feel a thing, a swoon, or a drying of my mouth, nor any urge to invite him in under the pretense of coffee and offer myself to him. Everything I did to you after that, until we went onto our second friends track? I was trying to find a spark with Tristan again, a reason to try to find something to hate about you."
Then, I closed my eyes and came the closest today to admitting what I really felt for her, running my hands against the bottom knuckles on each of her hands. I could hear her breath shallow up, the air around us start to stiffen. The sounds of a song from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack played over the loudspeakers, and what minutes ago may have been another end to a friendship, turned out to end well in my favor, it finally felt nice to get everything out about what I had thought of Tristan over the last year.
By this point, my voice had started breaking, and I felt myself swoon as I pushed the idea of Rory and I together further in our intimate dancing circle. "Rory, if you hadn't been here for me, to stop me from going bat crazy over an A- grade or these wacky Franklin ideas I come up with that are bad in actuality, or going along with me to become my vice president and just listened to my mother all the time instead of my heart and gut feelings, I wouldn't be happy at all. I look at who I was in September two years ago, and I can't believe how much of a bitch I was to you, no one ever offered to help me with something they screwed up, be it a project or an assignment, because they were too scared to even broach the question. You asked anyways, and I refused. Even after all that and trying to shut you out cold, you stay with me. You could've become a Puff all alone, but you demanded that I get in with you or else you wouldn't join at all. Finally, you love to tease me about being so high-strung and obsessed with tests, being good natured about it and telling me to ease up. In the end though, no matter what I've done--" This point in the conversation would be about where I lost all composure, and softly cried, blinking back tears that were going to come anyway. "You still like me. I'm still your friend and you're my best friend. And for that, I'm forever grateful to have you in my life, Rory Gilmore." With that, I collapsed onto her shoulder, and just cried like I never did before, joyful tears that expressed how thankful I was for that small-town brunette right then and there.
Thank God no one really saw it and we were buried deep in the crowd, a slow dance was the perfect time to just let it all out. Her hand was rubbing my upper back, and I heard her soothing voice, telling me everything was going to be OK and that it was fine to cry. I let myself go, letting two years of torn emotions, broken and reformed loyalties and misunderstandings formerly buried, bubble to the surface. I had been honest with her about Tristan, and in turn she understood. There was no second-guessing, no questioning, just a smile and a reassuring shoulder to cry on. We both kept our feet moving, and when I looked towards the judge's stand, I saw Ms. LaCosta in her chair. She was smiling at me, and her confidence in Rory forgiving me and listening to my side of the story was right on target.
There's still about ten hours of this literal song and dance to go, and I'm in it for the long haul now. If I had to do it again, use my yellow card to gain a little space and perspective, I wouldn't change a thing. Because even in my worst moments, Rory's loyalty to me is unwavering, and through this night that fact is becoming crystal clear.
All I need now is more clarity on whether she likes me further than she lets on...
7:59pm, Rory's POV
I remember when I had those feelings for Jess before I kissed him at Sookie's wedding, how conflicted and disloyal I felt to not only my mother for ditching her graduation to see him, but how crappy it must've been to Dean that I was going behind his back to pursue something with him. I look back on that now and think of myself as crazy for doing that, skipping school and jeopardizing everything just so I could risk my life to see that boy. It was crazy back then, and it still is now.
But an infatuation was guiding me, that maybe, just maybe I wanted Jess instead of Dean. His brown eyes, rebellious demeanor and his dislike of authority was the reverse of the way I led my life, and I found myself in bed sometimes thinking about him and how he would do things. That's why I went down there, love doing something funny to my system and making me think that for one day, I just needed to be in his gaze and see if he felt the same for me. Jess caused things to happen within me Dean never stirred, and I became a cat, curious as to what was on the end of that string dangled before me.
Once I kissed him though, I felt...what should have been happiness and fulfillment from obtaining my goal of kissing Jess, but instead turned out to be far from that. A sense of nothing took over my body in front of that pond on the Inn grounds, and from there, I realized a conclusion my brain had arrived at nine months before, but I refused to believe.
Jess and I; like Mac and DOS, we'd never work together. I had the bright outlook on things, the many open windows leading to different programs and images along with the bright colored cabinet holding my thoughts and dreams. Jess ended up being the C-prompt; an empty shell who was stubborn, always needed to be told what to do, and with thought processes that could use a few more megs of memory, he'd always stay in that leather jacket, a 'beige box' if you will. He never expanded his horizons, always expecting to be bailed out of trouble. He was always unchanging, sour, and unreliable; pretty soon he'd break and lose it all. The kiss got my attention alright; and it screamed out in a blue screen 'Danger! Danger! Turn back now, you might be in for a world of hurt if you go beyond this.'
So as I comfort Paris, what term could I use to describe her in an electronic device sort of way? And how the heck did I get on this mind track in the first place? Oh well, I got it now; she's like a cell phone; at first she seemed to have only one purpose in talking, that is in living out her dream of attending Harvard. As the years go on though, she loses the extraneous weight and pressure that came with the first mobile phones, and every six months she gets a new feature. Let's just say that when I came to school two years ago, she was the basic model that did little more than was supposed to. Now with me in her corner, she's developing new features, like actual emotions, thoughts and feelings, able to have empathy for others and communicate her feelings in more ways than she ever though possible. Use the cell phone analogy with text messaging, a camera in the handset, instant messaging and that chirpy walkie-talky thing you find on some of them, and it fits perfectly.
Enough of that though. My point is, Paris is really surprising me tonight. She runs away by using her yellow card and for ten minutes I'm stuck in the bleachers, praying she'll come back. In the meantime Jess and Shane had come over to check up on me before they left on a date to see some band in a grungy New Haven dance hall. They both looked very nice, and as more days go by, I can't help but think I made the right decision in letting Jess go. He's pleased with Shane and starting to occasionally smile, while the wild blonde seems to have reined herself in around Jess, who carries on the proud Danes monosyllablotic tradition. I talk to them for a bit, trying not to mention where my date was. I got into some quick music conversation with them before they had to go, and I appreciate that I can be myself around Jess without having any romantic feelings interfere anymore.
I watched the clock on the scoreboard nervously, counting the minutes before Paris and I were called out. She was talking a long time in there, and I saw Taylor almost salivate at getting to throw us, couple #131 out of the event. There was only so much I could do, so I could only hope she was straightening herself out.
By the time 7:46:53 hit, I gave up hope. There were less than thirty seconds to go, and even she had no way of making it from the bathrooms at the far end of the gym wing and back into my arms in that small amount of time. Not with her shoes and body type, I thought to myself as the lighted number switched from 6 to 7. 13:47:23 was good enough for 56th place; at least we'd get in the top 60...
Never count Paris Gellar out until zero hour though. Ten seconds later, I heard a rough shove of the gym door, and saw a flash of black, blonde and red tomato rush through it and into the room again. My eyes widened at the sudden tornado and her rough, yet formal shoving through the crowd to get to me.
Down to seven seconds, and I finally heard her confirm who she was.
Her voice was rough and strained, I couldn't stand there and hope she came to me; we had to come each other. So desperate to keep myself in the game, I ran through the crowd, counting down the seconds in my head. 16, 17, 18, 19...
We were headed for a collision course at the 131 'X' on the floor as the end digits on the board lit up and changed to 20. Three seconds, fifteen feet between us, a lump in my throat forming. The skirt of my dress was rising in the air, and I'm sure quite a few contestants got a quick glance of the back of my legs as I stretched out my arm, I could hear the click of the electric circuitry of the wall board in my mind as that end digit went to 1...
My right hand was taken by her long and svelte left, time seemed to stand still as we locked eyes again.
Click, 21 becomes 22.
I felt her slide towards the tape mark, and my back fall towards the gym floor as she shoved me down a little. Paris had something planned as I felt her body move close to mine. She stretched me out, causing me to spin about 450° and then bringing me back towards her, only to overshoot on purpose, where I found out her right arm was ready to brace my back. She caught me, and I found myself with quite the eyeful of her cleavage...
Click, 22 becomes 23...
Her smile matched mine; we were again Paris and Rory, dance partners. She brought me back up and into a regular kind of dance as we didn't hear the expected 'Airhorn of Elimination', but a disappointed Taylor instead cursing out Paris for making it on time.
We both laughed at this, and as she explained that yes, she was sorry and she didn't mean to turn Tristan into an issue again, I didn't expect much more than that, just an apology and a resumption of the dance.
Once again however, she surprised me, and just like that, she admitted what my heart had been hoping for since those first days this summer we spent straddling the Mason/Dixon line in that Howard University dorm room. Tristan was just a friend, always going to be just a friend to her, and she had no intentions of resparking the crush again. My heart was relieved and relaxed...
Until she admitted that the kiss I shared with him? She knew about it from the day after the dance, thanks to Madeline's spying...I mean security system, which had a hidden camera placed on a high shelf in the room somewhere, directed dead center at the piano bench. From there, I expected her to lecture me about my stupidity and why I'd be so weak and do something like that, along with the inevitable 'you knew I wanted him too, I don't care if your hearts were broken, I have first dibs' speech.
Paris relieved me though; she knew I didn't go in there hoping to seduce Tristan, that I was just trying to forget about what happened with Dean the night before and that my mind wasn't all there, I was looking for comfort. She knew I didn't enjoy the kiss and the feelings that came with it, so I tried to reassure her by telling my side of the story before she stopped me and told me she knew exactly what I'd say, and she was right.
I felt relieved to say the least, along with a growing respect for her. She didn't use the tape for blackmail material, and refused to use it to bring me down, rather she'd compete against me for her grade rather than win by a knockout blow. Coming from a girl I associated from day one with bringing me down, Paris' sportsmanship when it came to our grades was another thing I had learned about her that day.
We kept talking about Tristan for a bit, asking why she still had a problem with the date with Tristan I set her up on, yet burned the tape. Of course, the crush won out, for awhile at least. As DuGrey started on his downward spiral, her heart, filled with his love previously, was being wrung out.
But when she admitted that during that date, she didn't feel a damned thing for him at all, even in a deep kiss, I didn't know what to say. I wanted to celebrate that fact, but doing that would be rude and idiotic. My mind wrapped itself around an image of Paris and Tristan at her door kissing, watching her from a third person point of view and seeing Paris remaining unresponsive to Tristan's apparently 'magic mouth'.
She had never felt sparks for Tristan when they kissed. To Paris, the swirling in her stomach, shaky mouth, loss of all rational thought and feeling, heightened senses in her fingertips, that sudden response to stand on one foot and lean in closer...that was still an alien feeling to her. She was admitting as much to me, and for her to say she felt nothing for the boy she chased for years and years, I realized something.
I had experienced all of that when it came to Dean. She was wise beyond her years when it came to book learnin' and the mannerisms she acquired by being a part of Hartford society. When it came to love however, she was still a relative novice. What advice I had told her when it came to that date with Jamie was light and might as well have been a mulligan. She had never experienced real love, hell, Paris had never even been kissed.
I mean sure she had been kissed, technically. But not a real kiss. The kind of kiss that makes you crumble to the ground, lose your breath, yearn for more. As she talked about the way the date with Tristan really went, I had this long look at her full lips as we danced, my lashes lowered so she wouldn't clue into my gaze. My yearning to show her how to kiss started to build up, and though I wouldn't do it in such a public place, things became even more clear besides the crush I was holding for her mind, body, and heart.
I wanted to show her how to really love, not just infatuation. If two years with Dean has taught me something, it's what mistakes not to make in the course of a relationship and how to keep the flame burning. There were times I stayed with him only because of a sudden sweet gesture he made, but I don't want to have to depend on those when I pursue this. When she's around, like right now, just her presence changes my thought processes from far from normal. I compete to not only complete a goal I set for myself, to facilitate Lorelai's wishes, but to gain Paris' respect.
There was a part of me that knew Paris wasn't brain-dead when it came to showing love; but it wasn't her forte, and while she'd excel in a few places, most of her idea of romance was a large question mark. A part of me feels that my role is changing from seducer to teacher, and Paris' is going from seductee to the student.
God, Rory Gilmore, the Sapphic Love Instructor? Imagine if I put that on my business card later in life!
As I thought of this, the conversation seemed to be fading, and Paris seemed ready to break down in my arms. As she said she was thankful I was in her life, tears started falling and her grip started to fade, so I propped her back up and had her rest her head against my shoulder. Paris started crying, and moments later, I found my hand on her back, massaging it as I tried to help her let out all her tears. Thankfully she had rubbed off her eye makeup during the six o'clock break so she wouldn't have dark streaks down her cheeks, so anyone who looked in would think we were just dancing close.
There were a few couples around us looking at me funny for letting her lean against my shoulder, but an eyeroll and a shift towards a far corner of the gym remedied that so I could ease Paris back into a calm mood in relative quiet.
I soothed her with words, my voice taking on a maternal treble. "It's OK Par, it's fine," I told her, trying to resume the conversation stopped from her breaking down. "It's good to get this out, I'm not mad at you at all and don't think of you as weak. You're a very tough girl and I'm just as thankful for you in my life."
"Really?" she said through a sob. "This isn't a fib, you're not using this as an opportunity to try to find my Achilles, my weaknesses?"
"I wouldn't lie," I told her honestly. "You don't know how nervous I was after you left on the date, hoping you'd get those cues right and ease off the index cards, and I was hoping that Tristan would see you as more than a classmate for the first time. I enjoyed helping you get ready, and the reason I helped you was because I felt extreme guilt over the kiss. I mean I had good luck with Henry and Lane, so I thought I could work the same magic with you and Tristan." Her chin felt so soft against my shoulder, and the dark corner of the gym, still visible to Taylor, made our surroundings somewhat romantic. The gym lights around the periphery of the gym floor were turned off with only the middle bank of lights on, spotlighting tracks on each side of the gym. We were behind one of the riggings, so very little of the light came towards us.
I swayed her back and forth, giving her a little more of a break to calm her down. With Unchained Melody playing, the scene felt romantic. I kept telling her softly things were OK and I was relieved she knew about the piano room kiss, not thinking of the boy who used to be in between us at all as I had her wrap her arms around my back as I did the same. My fingers were in line with the plunge of her dress, and she found the courage again to place her hands in line with my waist. It took a few more moments for her to take her head off my shoulder, but once she did...
My breath caught, and I was overtaken with her beauty. Her expressive browns glistened from the cry and little light flowing into her pupils, and they were wide, looking into mine and forming this moment I'm not about to forget anytime soon. Her lips glistened in the little light, and her skin was subdued. I just loved how her mixed heritage of German and Spaniard genes, along with her Jewish heritage came together to form such a beautiful girl. She has the Germanic features in her nose and mouth, the full lips, nose and subdued ears, but her mother's Spanish ancestry was good for at least one thing; her skin is so smooth and perfect, so dark. I admit, I love it when Paris tans, because her body is made for it and she doesn't burn easily. Madeline and Louise have admitted as such; they tan at a booth and still have much envy for Par's simple beauty regimen and how she can go from pink to olive in but a few half-hour sessions.
I can't help but look at her; my mouth dries as the slow guitar and violin from the current tune pick up at the bridge. She's looking at me with this look of longing I've never placed before, and she mouths out a thank you for my caring words and action. It feels like 'the moment', the time to slowly go in and bring her closer.
I do, pushing her closer towards me as she does the same, we're becoming drawn to each other again, the magnetism that's given me the cues before off the chart as her breasts press against my chest, and I can feel her abdomen deflating and inflating against mine. We're so close, in dimmed light, her face perfect.
"You look beautiful tonight, Paris," I whisper to her, my lips plump and needing. I struggle to regain my breath; it's almost as if I needed her kiss to go on further.
She nodded back at me, her own mouth opening. I haven't felt this way before, this is so right. I don't want to rush into this, I just want the moment to carry itself, because I want this to be perfect. Fireworks, oohs, ahhs, a swooning soundtrack in the background.
"Sometimes you're very peculiar Gilmore," she tells me in her seductive monotonic murmur, as her nails play with the material on the back of my dress. "I have to admit however, when I'm with you, I do feel the way you say I am." Her face moves closer and closer, the moment is so perfect despite there being ten hours left and my surprise if we win possibly being ruined if I go through with it.
I wanted it, I wanted it so bad I could almost feel orchids digging into my back, her perfume getting to me and making me remember back to Mr. Medina's marriage proposal. Only instead of daisies, I visualize Paris and I in the middle of the Inn lobby, bunches and bunches of purple, pink and yellow orchids all over the place. I prepare to bring her into the kiss slowly, my tongue against the ridge of my lower lip, she didn't seem scared to move closer and closer.
I could hear her breath, heartbeat, the flow of her blood through my system as we continued to sway. We were but mere centimeters from each other, the moment was perfect, nothing had to be acknowledged and we were about to breach that bold white 'friends and lovers' line that shouldn't be crossed unless we both thought it was the time, the place, and the moment to do so...
Then just as I was about to close that last distance, I found my new arch-enemy at 7:57:15pm in Taylor Doose, and his need to torture us until the cows come home. All the sudden, the loud scoreboard horn went off, and where moments before I would have been claiming Paris as more than a dance partner, the moment that fucking horn went off, she jumped about four feet backwards in the other direction.
"Oh, now what?!" I complained as she yelled "For the love of God!" towards Taylor as I got a quick grasp on her left hand to not only keep her from falling down, but keep us in the contest. The moment was lost, and though I wanted to shed tears, I couldn't because I had just helped Paris settle down, I didn't need to go through her having to take care of me.
Besides, it was time for the one thing every year I dreaded...
"Ladies and gentlemen, get into a single file line along the basketball sideline behind the red tape, it's time for the Runaround!" Crap on a cracker, how in good conscience could he do this right after Unchained Melody and my almost-kissing Paris?!
"Runaround, what's that, what's a runaround? Rory, I need to know, please tell me, does it involve sudden death?!" The poor guy had made Paris panic like a chicken in the yard right after it has its head cut off, and as we raced to join the building crowd at the red line, I quickly ran it down for her.
"He promised us all he wouldn't do this again this year, but basically he has us run around the gym for five minutes in a game where all the couples dance around to one of those bad school square dancing record songs. If we don't make it past the red line when the horn sounds we're out of the contest, I'm so sorry, and I would've warned you if I knew he would've sprung it on us!" I held her hand tightly for dear life as we got behind Kirk and his partner, and Paris wasn't above holding back her feelings.
"What a prick!" she shot out. "I thought I liked him, but you're right Rory, he's an old anal freak."
Kirk looked towards us and tried to defend his former employer 7-10 times over, I forget the exact number. "Hey, that anal freak hired me when he didn't have to and he organizes this marathon every year young lady, so show some respect--"
The anger over not kissing Paris at a brim point, I cut Kirk off before he goaded Paris into a shoving match. "Whatever, put a sock in it Gleason, you're gonna be here late anyways so what do you have to complain about, we're trying to beat you!"
Thankfully this shut Kirk up, and we heard the needle drop as Taylor prepared to start the runaround. A horrible and awful song came out of the speakers, the kind you find buried way down below in the record racks at the Bethesda store because no one knows who composed or played the song because they were embarrassed to play it for infamy in the first place.
"Everyone, ready on your marks...get set...and go!"
So that's where Paris and I are now, in the middle of the crowd trying to stay on our feet as we both try to will time faster so this whole stupid ordeal ends. At least I'm doing it with her and still in the game, and in retrospect, kissing her in a public venue, be it in a dark corner of the gym, was better stopped in the long run than if we had gone through with it. If I do it in privacy later though, we'd be able to talk it out rather than have some awkward things go down in the aftermath. Paris is struggling to stay on her feet, and she's hopped on one foot for a bit, then the other so she could take off her shoes and chuck them towards the bleachers since they were hurting her feet, she wasn't prepared for this at all. Thankfully there's no rule against barefoot dancing, so the only thing I'll have to worry about for the rest of the night is not stepping on them. I only hope she respects me in the morning if we get through this all.
Speaking of which, if we do get past 4am, there's now way she's going to drive home to Hartford in her car, I will not let her go drowsy and with sore feet. This of course, sets up interesting possibilities for Sunday morning into the afternoon, keeping her in Stars Hollow. Looks like I have some more motivation to keep her in the game...
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